Puerto Rico’s territorial government receives less money in competitive Federal grants than the governments of any of the States although the territory is home to more people than at least 20 States are, has more than six times as many people as the least populous State (Wyoming, population 583,000), and people born in Puerto Rico are U.S citizens.
The Commonwealth’s poor performance in winning competitive Federal grants was emphasized this week by data from its Office of Management and Budget although a “Commonwealth” party appointee heads the agency.
Director Carlos Rivas noted that the Commonwealth currently only receives $259 per resident per year — a total of $1.084 billion in grants for which it has to compete with the States. He contrasted the funding with that received by the States which received the least, including 50th-ranked Nevada. The State receives $504 per capita in competitive Federal grants for a total of $1.371billion.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Nevada’s population just under a year ago at 2.79 million. At the same time, it projected Puerto Rico’s population to be 3.615 million.
Most Federal grants to States and territories are provided as specified in laws or according to formulae set forth in the laws. But some is allocated by Federal agencies in response to State and territory requests – competitive grants. And a small portion is apportioned on a completely discretionary basis.
Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth government does worse than the States with all three types of grants.
The main problem is that the Commonwealth does not have voting representation in the Federal government other than a sole resident commissioner who can only vote in committees of the U.S. House of Representatives.
If Puerto Rico were a State, it would have five representatives with full voting power in the House, two U.S. senators, and seven votes in the Electoral College election of the president and the vice president of the United States. This political power — more than or as much as that of 20 States — would certainly mean billions of dollars more in Federal competitive and discretionary grants in addition to about $10 billion a year more in funds granted as specified in laws.
It would also result in billions of dollars in additional Federal government purchasing from businesses in Puerto Rico. Currently, there is relatively little Federal procurement in the territory.
The double-digit additional billions of dollars would be much greater than the additional Federal taxes that would come from Puerto Rico being treated equally with the States. The injection into the insular economy would have a dramatic positive effect on the economy, including on the standard of living of most people as well as on the health of most business.
Puerto Ricans voted for the equality of statehood in the nation in a plebiscite held along with the 2012 elections. The plebiscite rejected the current territory status sometimes misleadingly called “Commonwealth” by 54% and chose statehood among the possible alternatives by 61.2%.