Sanders’ new bill would invest billions into modernizing Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.
The tail end of Hurricane Maria’s driving rains and powerful winds retreated from Puerto Rico over two months ago, but the aftermath of the devastating storm is not leaving the island any time soon.
Nearly 3.5 million American citizens are still facing a severely damaged electrical grid, crumbling infrastructure, and apathy from a president who has been roundly criticized for his recovery effort.
However, some are choosing to view the massive operation of rebuilding Puerto Rico as a chance to improve the island, bringing it back better than ever before. Leading this charge is former presidential hopeful and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
After visiting Puerto Rico last month, Sanders introduced a $146 billion recovery plan Tuesday aimed at rebuilding Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Notably, the plan calls for the elimination of Puerto Rico’s outstanding debt, and prevents all proposed privatization of any public institutions on the islands.
Aptly named the “The Puerto Rico and U.S Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017,” Sanders’ plan offers a different vision of recovery than anything previously proposed. The bill emphasizes the importance of placing control of recovery into the hands of local impacted communities, with special focus on the sustainable development of infrastructure, and a clean energy power grid.
As hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans leave the island for the mainland of the US, the bill would also incentivize residents to remain in their homes by offering subsidies to municipalities and homeowners who install renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal power systems.
the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico were exacerbated by the effects of rampant poverty, high rates of unemployment, and a lack of economic investment by the US government into efficient infrastructure systems.
Sanders’ bill, which is to be co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would seek to remedy some of these longstanding social ills by including increased funding to the island’s healthcare and education systems.
Furthermore, the bill would provide additional funds to be invested in efforts to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change — a reality that could worsen the impacts of future weather-related disasters hitting both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and taking action on climate change is goal number 13. Acting too late to combat the effects of climate change would be devastating to millions around the world at risk from weather catastrophes like hurricanes. You can take action on this issue here.
Even with the support of high ranking Democrats, it is expected that Sanders’ bill will not pass through the Republican-controlled congress, as reported by the Washington Post. Earlier in November, Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló requested just under $95 billion to aid relief efforts on the island, but Congress has not approved this sum. Sanders’ bill would nearly double that.
As of this week, Congress has allotted $51 billion in aid for Puerto Rico, with another round of cash expected to be approved in December, Reuters reported.
Sanders told the Washington Post that it is Congress’ responsibility to pass legislation that solves the longstanding structural deficiencies of Puerto Rico.
“Congress must work with the people of Puerto Rico to fundamentally transform its expensive, antiquated and unreliable system,” he said.