Puerto Rico wants $94 billion of federal aid for hurricane recovery
(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico is seeking $94 billion in federal aid to help it recover from the hurricane that devastated the territory in September, leaving much of the island still without power and worsening a financial crisis that had already pushed the government into bankruptcy.
The biggest share of the funds, $31 billion, would be used to rebuild homes, with another $18 billion requested for the electric utility, Governor Ricardo Rossello said in a letter to President Donald Trump released Monday.
"The scale and scope of the catastrophe in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria knows no historic precedent," Rossello wrote."We are calling upon your administration to request an emergency supplemental appropriation bill that addresses our unique unmet needs with strength and expediency."
The request comes a day before Rossello is scheduled to testify in Congress about recovery efforts. The executive director of the federal board that’s overseeing the island’s finances said that $13 billion to $21 billion was needed over the next two years just for Puerto Rico to keep the government running, given the toll the storm has taken on the economy and anticipated tax collections.
Much of Puerto Rico remains without power nearly two months after the hurricane slammed onto its shores, undermining the government’s already precarious finances. Puerto Rico entered into the largest bankruptcy in U.S. municipal market history in May after it a series of defaults on its $74 billion of debt.
Before the storm, Puerto Rico drew up a fiscal plan that would cut into spending and cover only a fraction of the debt payments due over the next decade. It’s now moving to redraw that road-map and its bond prices have tumbled amid speculation it will have to foist even deeper losses on investors.
The island’s long-term economic recovery will also depend on whether the residents stay to rebuild or move to the U.S. mainland. The oversight board official told Congress last week that about 100,000 residents have fled since the storm. The governor also warned that Congress could hasten this trend and further damage the economy if it levies new taxes on Puerto Rico to cover the cost of the broader U.S. cuts now under debate.
"If Congress does not consider Puerto Rico in tax reform it would lead to the exodus of companies that currently generate 42 percent of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product, the loss of jobs on the island and exacerbate the outward migration of island residents moving to the mainland," a statement from the governor’s office accompanying the letter said.