January 7, 2017

Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico Issues Report On Recommendations for Congress, Federal Agencies, and the Government of Puerto Rico

“The Task Force is of the view that Puerto Rico’s best days lie before it, not behind it.” — we agree. PRERI was pleased to see a good faith effort by the Task Force to recommend strong recommendations in 18 areas critical to the future of Americans residing in Puerto Rico and the Island’s economy, health, communities and infrastructure.

The report makes important recommendations to help realign federal agencies to support Puerto Rico as they do other states and territories, and make equal the rights and needs of the citizens of the Island to those of every other American citizen. The report also pushes the government of Puerto Rico to make smarter governing choices for the well-being and long-term stability of the Island and Americans living on it.

However, the Task Force did nothing more than make recommendations, which is why PRERI strongly urges the Congress, federal agencies and bureaus listed in the report to swiftly respond and adhere to the recommendations spelled out in the report, to ensure that the resolution of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis remains a top priority.

You can read the full report here, or a recap of the report’s recommendations below.

As explained by the Task Force and reported by Florida Politics, the Task Force’s recommendations include the following:

  1. Healthcare
  • Congress needs to enact an equitable and sustainable legislative solution to the financing of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program early in 2017.
  • Changes also should be made to how Medicare is administered on the island, possibly changing the opt-in requirement for Puerto Ricans who want Medicare Part B.


  1. Federal Tax Policy
  • Congress should expand the federal child tax credit in Puerto Rico so families there with one or two children can claim it just as families in the states do.
  • Congress also should consider other tax reforms to bring Puerto Rico’s tax laws more in line with the states.
  • Increase the amount of excise tax on Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands rum, and imported rum, that is paid back to the island’s government.
  • Congress should extend the tax deductions available in the states for qualified film, television, or live theatrical productions to Puerto Rico.


  1. Energy
  • The government of Puerto Rico should fully reform the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which the task force said “does not inspire confidence” with its high-priced and unreliable electrical production and grid.
  • PREPA and the Puerto Rico Energy Commission should seek technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), and recommends that the USDOE provide all authorized forms of technical and financial assistance, as well as equitable treatment relative to grant programs and other energy-related research opportunities.
  • The Task Force also calls on The U.S. Secretary of Energy, as addressed in PROMESA, to appoint a team of experts as soon as possible to craft a plan for the Island.


  1. Federal Statistical Programs
  • Relevant federal statistical bureaus should take all reasonable steps to include Puerto Rico in federal statistical programs.


  1. Support For Small Businesses
  • The Small Business Administration should assess and reform its rate structures, limits, and contribution formulas for making small business loans in Puerto Rico.
  • Congress should create a program for contracting preference program for Puerto Rico small businesses to participate in federal contracts.
  • Congress should enact a law allowing Zika virus and other communicable diseases to qualify as a “disaster,” making affected small businesses eligible for emergency loans.


  1. Supplemental Security Income
  • Congress should hold a hearing to determine if Social Security Supplemental Security benefits should be extended to disabled people in Puerto Rico.


  1. U.S. Department of Commerce
  • The U.S. Economic Development Administration should base its Puerto Rico representative in Puerto Rico, rather than in Philadelphia.
  • Someone with expertise in Puerto Rico tourism should be appointed to the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
  • The government of Puerto Rico should develop a comprehensive economic development strategy that exploits the island’s many comparative advantages.


  1. U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • The CDFI Fund should update the maps on its website to include Puerto Rico and the other territories, appoint an individual to the Community Development Advisory Board with expertise in the unique lending and community development issue facing the Island, and educate NCUA-insured credit unions in Puerto Rico on becoming a certified CDFI.
  • The Treasury Department should continue to provide technical assistance pursuant to this authority to the government of Puerto Rico.


  1. Investor Protection
  • Repeal an exemption in a 1940 law that otherwise provides some investment protection to companies.


  1. Public Safety
  • Congress should continue to exercise its oversight authority to ensure that federal agencies and departments are working in coordination to reduce drug trafficking and associated violence in Puerto Rico.
  • Congress should pass a permanent law that ONDCP prepare and publish a Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, and update it every two years.


  1. Municipal Solid Waste Landfills
  • The Task Force expressed concern over the impact of Puerto Rico’s landfills on public health and safety, recommending the committees of jurisdiction in Congress examine this issue to determine whether there are additional steps that can and should be taken.


  1. Arecibo Observatory
  • The National Science Foundation, in collaboration with other government and non-government stakeholders, take all feasible steps to ensure continued operation of the Arecibo Observatory.


  1. Former Naval Station Roosevelt Roads
  • The government of Puerto Rico should make it a priority to redevelop the former Naval Station Roosevelt Roads.


  1. Caño Martín Peña (Martín Peña Channel)
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should expedite plans to restore the Martín Peña Channel.


  1. Federal Interagency Advisory Council on Child Poverty
  • The federal government should consider establishing an entity to examine and report to Congress on ways to address persistent child poverty in the United States, including its territories.


  1. Unemployment Compensation Demonstration Project
  • Congress should consider whether to authorize Puerto Rico to have greater flexibility in its use of Unemployment Compensation benefits for the purpose of increasing employment.


  1. Administrative Order 346
  • The Puerto Rico Department of Health should choose to replace Administrative Order 346 with a new regulation, and encourages the Puerto Rico Department of Health to follow through on the pledge to hold public hearings on the proposed regulation.


  1. Puerto Rico’s Political Status
  • Regarding the future status of statehood, independence, or continuance as a U.S. Territory, the Task Force simply stated Congress should take it seriously: “If the government of Puerto Rico conducts a plebiscite authorized and funded by Public Law 113-76, the Task Force recommends that Congress analyze the result of this plebiscite with care and seriousness of purpose, and take any appropriate legislative action,” the task force concluded.