Puerto Rico 10-year recovery plan incorporates federal disaster aid

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WASHINGTON – About half of the $139 billion in Puerto Rico's 10-year recovery plan already is committed money, according to a 531-page document that details the spending.

The Aug. 8 announcement by Gov. Ricardo Rossello of a $139 billion price tag for rebuilding did not include public release of the supporting document. His announcement came on the same day as the deadline set by Congress for submission of a long-term recovery and rebuilding plan.

That initial announcement was met with skepticism is some quarters.

Howard Cure, director of municipal bond research at Evercore, told The Bond Buyer that the request appeared to not be realistic, pointing out that the commonwealth doesn’t have a voting representative in Congress to push for funding.

The public document that was subsequently released indicates Puerto Rico hopes to obtain $93.6 billion from the federal government over 10 years.

An estimated $69.1 billion of the $139 billion is already committed through a combination of insurance claims and federal disaster aid, the document said.

“This category includes a portion of funds from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF); a portion of the funding provided via supplemental appropriations, such as the CDBG-DR funding allocated to Puerto Rico at the time of this plan’s publication; and the estimated compensation from private insurance claims,” the document said.

Vicente Feliciano, president of Puerto Rico-based Advantage Business Consulting, said in an email Friday, “Even if the figure of $139 billion is not reached, the amount of federal funds flowing into Puerto Rico will be large compared to the size of the Puerto Rico economy.

“Just CDBG-DR funds approved stand at $20 billion and nothing has been disbursed yet,” said Feliciano.

Another $45.4 billion of the $139 billion would come from other sources, including the commonwealth’s own contribution and spending by the private sector, institutional investors, charitable foundations and public-private partnerships.

The document said the island has undertaken several public-private partnerships since the creation of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority.

“Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, the largest passenger airport on the island, has been operated since 2013 by the public-private partnership Aerostar Airport Holdings,” it said. “It is the only major privatized airport in the United States. Two toll roads, PR-22 and PR-5, have been operated by Metropistas since 2011. Other third-party operations arrangements, such as the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge and the Tren Urbano, pre-date the Public-Private Partnerships Authority.”

Data posted on the the federal website USA Spending shows that federal spending in the commonwealth has spiked to $28.8 billion in the current fiscal year in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

The biggest share of this year’s federal spending in Puerto Rico has been through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has spent $8.55 billion, or 26.1% of the total. Another $7.9 billion, or 24.12%, has been through the Social Security Administration followed by the Department of Homeland Security at $5.23 billion, or 15.98%.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $3.56 billion or 10.85% followed by the Department of Defense at $2.6 billion or 7.95%.

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Hurricane Maria Hurricane Irma Natural disasters Government finance Disaster recovery Washington DC Puerto Rico