U.S. mortgage to Puerto Rico a begin, however extra help to return: official


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. federal authorities is engaged on a long-term plan to assist Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria tore up the island territory’s energy grid and different infrastructure three weeks in the past, an administration official stated on Wednesday.

The U.S. Home of Representatives is ready to vote on Thursday on a catastrophe aid invoice that features a $four.9 billion mortgage for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a part of a $36.5 billion package deal to assist People get better from hurricanes and wildfires.

However the mortgage is meant to be a short-term measure to assist the cash-strapped island territory pay pressing payments, the official stated, talking on situation of anonymity.

“The Neighborhood Catastrophe Mortgage can not and doesn’t handle the restoration, rebuilding and way forward for Puerto Rico, which the administration intends to deal with with a extra long-term resolution in live performance with the Puerto Rican authorities, oversight board, court docket and Congress,” the official stated.

The broader package deal set for the Home vote consists of $576.6 million for wildfire efforts, $16 billion for the Nationwide Flood Insurance coverage program and a provision enabling low-income Puerto Ricans to obtain emergency vitamin help.

A sunken sailboat is seen forward of a demolished dock following Hurricane Maria in Fajardo, Puerto Rico October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Home Speaker Paul Ryan is ready to journey to Puerto Rico on Friday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to see the hurricane harm, a spokesman stated.

The White Home final week requested authorities businesses to start estimating how a lot cash is required to assist hurricane-hit states and territories get better and rebuild.

Puerto Rico, dwelling to three.four million Americans, is in a selected bind, already grappling with practically $72 billion in debt earlier than Hurricane Maria – the worst storm in nearly a century – hit its shores. Estimates of the fee to its economic system vary as excessive as $95 billion.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has requested for $four.6 billion as a “down cost on hurricane restoration efforts,” together with $three.2 billion in block grants.

The oversight board charged with resolving Puerto Rico’s debt disaster informed the U.S. Treasury Division that the island’s authorities would run out of cash on the finish of the month with out assist.

The mortgage is earmarked for payroll and pensions, however can’t be used for debt service.

Extra reporting by Richard Cowan and Makini Brice; enhancing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Invoice Trott and G Crosse

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