President Biden has convened a working group focusing on Puerto Rico. White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chávez Rodriguez, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice will co-chair the new Puerto Rico Task Force, which met for the first time this week.
“The president is committed to recovery, renewal and respect for Puerto Rico,” a White House official told the Miami Herald. “But there are significant obstacles that only a whole of government approach can meet, and this working group will lead that effort.”
White House Task Force on Puerto Rico
Previous presidents have also had Task Forces on Puerto Rico. The requirement to do so was established by Executive order 13183 under President Bill Clinton in 2000. This task force focused primarily on the status question, but later iterations have included economic and related issues.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and other members of the House Natural Resources Committee chastised the Trump administration for failing to convene a task force during their tenure.
Grijalva made a statement supporting Biden’s decision to reactivate the Task Force, saying, ““The Biden administration has committed to resolving the serious issues affecting the territory and its residents, and I sincerely commend them for this decision. I look forward to supporting the Task Force’s work, and I encourage the Biden administration to assign full-time staff to support it. The most effective version of this task force would also provide advice on policies and initiatives to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status and advance the island’s fiscal recovery, and I hope its mandate includes these vital roles.”
Read the reports submitted by previous Task Forces:
The new task force
The group met on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, when they received briefings from the Departments of the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These agencies shared their efforts toward “a comprehensive and holistic approach that sets the island on a course for future prosperity.”
Participants represented 22 different government agencies, reflecting the administration’s commitment to making the Task Force an interagency project. A White House official stated that revitalizing Puerto Rico is “an administration-wide priority.”