U.S. loan to Puerto Rico a start, but
more aid to come: official
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[October 12, 2017]
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. federal
government is working on a long-term plan to help Puerto Rico rebuild
after Hurricane Maria tore up the island territory's power grid and
other infrastructure three weeks ago, an administration official said on
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Thursday on a
disaster relief bill that includes a $4.9 billion loan for Puerto Rico
and the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a $36.5 billion package to help
Americans recover from hurricanes and wildfires.
But the loan is intended to be a short-term measure to help the
cash-strapped island territory pay urgent bills, the official said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The Community Disaster Loan cannot and does not address the recovery,
rebuilding and future of Puerto Rico, which the administration intends
to address with a more long-term solution in concert with the Puerto
Rican government, oversight board, court and Congress," the official
The broader package set for the House vote includes $576.6 million for
wildfire efforts, $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance program
and a provision enabling low-income Puerto Ricans to receive emergency
House Speaker Paul Ryan is set to travel to Puerto Rico on Friday with a
bipartisan group of lawmakers to see the hurricane damage, a spokesman
The White House last week asked government agencies to begin estimating
how much money is needed to help hurricane-hit states and territories
recover and rebuild.
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A gas station sits in ruins, after Hurricane Maria, in the
municipality of Naranjito outside San Juan, Puerto Rico October 11,
2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million American citizens, is in a
particular bind, already grappling with nearly $72 billion in debt
before Hurricane Maria - the worst storm in almost a century - hit
its shores. Estimates of the cost to its economy range as high as
Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has asked for $4.6 billion
as a "down payment on hurricane recovery efforts," including $3.2
billion in block grants.
The oversight board charged with resolving Puerto Rico's debt crisis
told the U.S. Treasury Department that the island's government would
run out of money at the end of the month without help.
The loan is earmarked for payroll and pensions, but cannot be used
for debt service.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Makini Brice; editing by
Jeffrey Benkoe, Bill Trott and G Crosse)
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