Joint Statement White House Special Representative Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown to Puerto Rico and Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced

President Trump, Vice President Pence and the entire Administration recognize that the people of Puerto Rico and all Americans continue to make great sacrifices in responding to the coronavirus crisis. In partnership with the Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, and her Administration, the White House and federal agencies continue to fill critical medical and supply needs while also providing financial relief to businesses and individuals on the island impacted by this pandemic. The three-coronavirus emergency supplemental bills signed into law by President Trump are bringing much-needed federal assistance and resources to the island.

The global coronavirus pandemic has stressed governments, businesses, families, and individuals around the world and across America in unprecedented ways.  The necessary “all-hands-on-deck” approach required to overcome this pandemic is taxing the very systems, organizations, and people that are working on Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery from previous disasters.  Despite these hardships, both the federal and state government continue to take necessary steps to increase transparency, accountability, and trust in our joint effort to rebuild and strengthen Puerto Rico.  Governor Vázquez Garced is prepared to respond to any inquires federal officials or elected representatives may have in regard to management of this – or previous – disasters that have affected the island.  She maintains her commitment to being fully transparent and building upon a new atmosphere of trust.

Recognizing the unique vulnerabilities of the Island, as a unique tourism and transportation hub, 1000 miles from the nearest mainland airport, Governor Vazquez Garced was quick to implement prudent public health measures and policies that reduced the potential spread of COVID-19 to and within Puerto Rico. She temporarily suspended all cruise ship operations and worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to redirect all commercial air traffic to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan where the National Guard screened all passengers. Vázquez Garced is now working with her Administration on plans to re-open Puerto Rico, closely following and implementing President Trump’s Opening America guidelines.

As federal and local governments plan for a phased restart of key sectors of Puerto Rico’s economy, we are mindful that a new hurricane season begins June 1st and that we are simultaneously recovering from hurricanes, earthquakes, and the coronavirus pandemic. We will prioritize activities that rebuild the physical, medical, organizational, and human readiness of Puerto Rico for the upcoming hurricane season.  Governor Vázquez and her team, with the support of FEMA and multiple federal agencies, will turn those priorities into action for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico. 

Working with the Financial Oversight Management Board (FOMB) and the Trump Administration, Governor Vázquez Garced announced a comprehensive relief package of $787 million for the island to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19. This $787 million is in addition to the $160 million from the already authorized Emergency Reserve fund included in the Certified Fiscal Plan and Budget.

These critical measures include:

-$237 million in one-time bonuses for public and private nurses, technicians, EMS personnel, correction officers, and other DPS staff;

-$50 million for hospitals and public safety organizations to restock medical supplies, and invest in equipment for a period of at least two months;

-$160 million in one-time direct payments to self-employed individuals and small businesses whose incomes have been affected by the disruption of their work;

– $240 million for the Department of Education to purchase tablets for teachers and students, and to support online-learning operations while schools are closed; and

– $100 million for municipalities, providing support for lost revenues over the next two months as a result of the emergency measures implemented to fight the coronavirus.

FOMB has also accelerated the availability of funds under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to the Government of Puerto Rico for prompt relief to people and businesses in need.  Once an agreement is reached with the U.S. Department of Treasury, FOMB will allow Hacienda to advance up to $400 million for the distribution of the $1200/$500 relief checks for all U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.  Working with FOMB, the Government of Puerto Rico continues to ensure that both federal and state dollars are spent prudently. 

The Trump Administration is ensuring that Federal resources are available to assist and bolster the response.  The VA Caribbean Healthcare system is operational and stands ready to support non-VA healthcare systems if asked by FEMA. Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor is working to enable two federal support mechanisms by the second half of April. These measures include eligibility for unemployment insurance to self-employed and others who are not typically eligible; and, an enhanced paycheck replacement program to deliver incremental $600 weekly checks for the unemployed. The Small Business Administration’s several relief programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and forgivable loans from the Payment Protection Program to small businesses provide much-needed economic relief.  The U.S. Department of Education made over $47 million available to Puerto Rico from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund).  And most recently, the Government of Puerto Rico received $2.2 billion in direct aid provided by the CARES Act for the territories to fight the coronavirus. 

The Trump Administration is working hard to reduce America’s dependence on foreign manufacturers and suppliers and to bring manufacturing jobs and facilities back home. We continue to work closely with the private sector, the Puerto Rican pharmaceutical and medical supply industry, and public health professionals to improve the safety, security, and reliability of the United States’ medical supply chain by capitalizing on the islands untapped pharmaceutical potential. Puerto Rico can make a great contribution to national security in this way.  Our joint mission is to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico get the best possible service from the Federal and State government to revitalize, strengthen, and rebuild the island. We continue to proudly serve that mission each and every day. 

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