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The Build Back Better Bill Isn’t a Complete Solution for Puerto Rico

The House of Representatives has passed the Build Back Better Act and it has gone on to the Senate. There are likely to be changes made in the Senate before the bill goes on to President Biden’s desk.

As approved by the House, the Build Back Better bill would increase Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico, providing $3.6 billion per year and increasing the federal matching of funds to 83%. It would extend SSI funding to Puerto Rico as of January 1st, 2024.

Passage of the Build Back Better Bill will give Puerto Rico something to be thankful for. But is it a permanent solution to the obstacles Puerto Rico faces as a U.S. territory?

Limitations of the Build Back Better Bill

Then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) said in a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, “Temporary economic advantages can help prepare a society for statehood but can never indefinitely outweigh the civil advantage of full citizenship, which only statehood can confirm. I look to a Puerto Rico that appears at our portals asserting that the obligation of citizenship can never be fully met by a citizenship that is incomplete.”

The Build Back Better Bill provides significant new funding for Puerto Rico. “It is an excellent project,” said Governor Pedro Pierluisi, but he also said that “this is not yet equality.” Resident Commissioner Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon also made the point that the pending legislative proposal merely brings Puerto Rico closer to the levels of funding it would have as a state.

What’s more, Congress can undo these changes in the future. The question of whether Congress has the power under the U.S. Constitution to exclude Puerto Rico from SSI benefits is still being considered by the Supreme Court. If the Court decides that Congress has this power, then a future Congress could once again exclude the territory from these benefits.

Medicaid reimbursement also could be changed back to earlier levels. Benefits to Puerto Rico have been reduced by Congress many times in the past. As a territory, Puerto Rico is not guaranteed equal treatment.

Statehood would make permanent changes

Statehood, unlike the current unincorporated territory status, would put Puerto Rico on an equal footing with the current 50 states. Under the U.S. Constitution, all States must be treated equally.

In the meantime, the Build Back Better Bill will ease the way for the territory of Puerto Rico.

3 thoughts on “The Build Back Better Bill Isn’t a Complete Solution for Puerto Rico”

  1. It is way past time for Puerto Ricans to force the issue on acceptance of statehood. The island must establish statement to protect itself from future congressional parties that could change ANY part of ANY agreement with Puerto Rico. Remember that if Puerto Rico is not a state the U,
    S. can do whatever they want withe future of the island. I am not really happy with the statehood issue, but i think it is the ONLY logical choice for Puerto Rico.

  2. Forgot to add that the island came together, all parties, when they recalled Rossello from the governors office. The issue of statehood is FAR more important than that issue so, if the island can come together for one issue, i am sure they can come together for another far more important issue, like statehood.

    1. Can come together, are you are out of your mind, Do you believe in the democracy. After a plebiscite of Nov/2020 where 53% of the voters chose statehood now, that is not enough for you. That it is what we all call democracy. Your such call, ” come together” sound like if we lived a dictatorship, we never going a have everybody in the same side nobody do. Just the power of the democracy the majority, 50% plus one and we have 53%

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