In an interview with Puerto Rico news source El Nuevo Día, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris said, “Like Joe Biden, I believe that we cannot wait any longer to address the unequal treatment of American citizens living on the island. The reason I strongly support the people of Puerto Rico is simple: I strongly support that all Americans be treated with dignity and respect.”
Harris spoke about the Biden-Harris Plan for Puerto Rico, a detailed outline of the actions a Biden-Harris administration would take to support Puerto Rico. “Joe and I believe that Puerto Rico, and the more than three million American citizens who reside there, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said. “As part of our plan to recover, renew and respect Puerto Rico, we will create a federal task force to ensure that the island receives all the federal resources and technical support it needs…This will be accompanied by a federal commitment to support a full recovery, to rebuild infrastructure to modern standards and invest in economic initiatives and support for families, unsustainable debt relief, and resources to expand access to education. quality and development of the workforce.”
She went on to discuss a $300 billion investment planned to support industries and workforce education across the country, including in Puerto Rico. Asked why she felt motivated to help the Island, Harris said, “Only in the last four years, the people of Puerto Rico have faced Hurricanes Irma and María, an earthquake and now this pandemic, as well as economic challenges even before the virus hit… And, even today, after years of hardship, thousands of people are living with blue awnings for roofs, the aftermath of the hurricane still haunts survivors and a devastated economy has forced many to leave their island and their families.”
Equal Access to Federal Programs
Harris talked about providing equal access to federal programs which currently provide less support for Puerto Rico than for the 50 states. “Even before the pandemic, approximately one in three adults in Puerto Rico has been at risk of starvation and four in 10 have been living in poverty,” she said. “But, although the people of Puerto Rico deserve the same nutritional support and SSI benefits that people who live in the states receive, they do not have equal access to those critical benefits. A federal court recently ruled that residents of Puerto Rico must be eligible for SSI, but the Trump administration has appealed the decision. As Vice President, I will stand alongside Joe Biden, ensuring that people living in Puerto Rico have the nutritional, financial and other support they deserve.”
She said that austerity policies should be reversed and the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board should have a different focus. “Joe and I know that expanding access to quality education and career opportunities are essential factors for the future of Puerto Rico,” she said. “Our plan will mean more than $ 1.2 billion for Puerto Rico under Title I of education funds, nearly $ 300 million to support students with disabilities, and a significant amount for school infrastructure and construction. Our plan also invests in community colleges to ensure that every student has the opportunity to earn college credit or high school work credentials. And we will increase investment in Institutions that serve minorities, such as the University of Puerto Rico.”
Harris also spoke about plans to facilitate affordable child care and to ensure that all workers have paid family and medical leave.
“Lift as you climb”
Harris spoke of lessons she had learned from her mother and also from activists of the past.
“The generations of women on whose shoulders I stand understood that the way to achieve lasting change is to lift (others) as you climb,” she said. “And if I have the honor of serving as Vice President, I will challenge young women, people of color, and all young people to believe in their potential to accomplish great things. Because, despite all our political divisions, my own life shows that we are still a country where people of all backgrounds can serve our communities and the country and make a difference in the lives of others.”
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is running with Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in the presidential election.