While some elements of the original bill have been scaled back, many of the benefits for Puerto Rico remain.
Building Puerto Rico Back Better
The current iteration of the Build Back Better plan would do the following things for Puerto Rico:
- Extend Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the territory, ending the uncertainty surrounding a pending Supreme Court case.
- Make Puerto Rican families eligible for monthly payments of the Child Tax Credit, consistent with the current policy in the fifty states
- Increase the federal matching rate for Medicaid and eliminate Puerto Rico’s current cap on Medicaid federal assistance
- Expand preschool and school lunch programs
- Implement wind power initiatives in Puerto Rican waters
The bill’s new framework reduces the $3.5 trillion bill to $1.75 trillion.
“Today is a great day for Puerto Rico,” said Governor Pierluisi in a written response. “The Biden Administration included important appropriations for Puerto Rico in its ‘Build Back Better Act’ bill that will help us fight poverty, create jobs, and improve the quality of life of our people. As we prepare to take the necessary steps to emerge from government bankruptcy and restructure our public debt, the federal government is taking concrete steps to treat us with the equality we deserve as American citizens. We have seen how when we are treated equally, Puerto Ricans achieve great success, as we have demonstrated in the management of the pandemic and vaccination efforts.”
Speaking of the extension of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to Puerto Rico, he said, “This will have a huge impact on the quality of life for our people in need. It is another step to combat poverty and help everyone on our Island to have a dignified life.”
Pierluisi has been speaking optimistically about Puerto Rico’s potential.
“The collaboration and support between the Government of Puerto Rico and the Federal Government will continue to bear fruit for our people,” he said, “and the day will soon come when we will not have to wait for special provisions for the Island and, on the contrary, equality will be guaranteed for the American citizens of Puerto Rico.”
The governor was probably referring to the initiative to achieve statehood for Puerto Rico. As a State, Puerto Rico will not require special provisions but will receive the same treatment as the current 50 States. Equality is guaranteed for States, but not for territories.