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CONGRESSIONAL REPORT: More Senate Power Brokers Are Jumping On The Federal Aid Bandwagon To Make Sure The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Aren’t Left For Dead

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are coming together with a new solution for one struggling commonwealth and one struggling territory.

“Half of the people there, American citizens all, still have no electricity,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

Sanders introduced a new comprehensive plan to help the people of Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Two months after hurricanes Irma and Maria, many still don’t have access to clean water, food, and other basic necessities.

“This isn’t just a natural disaster it is an economic disaster that local governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot dig out of on their own,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.

Gillibrand is cosponsoring Sanders’ bill that they say would not only help Puerto Rico and the USVI recover but give the islands the tools to rebuild.

This bill would address the immediate humanitarian crisis without forcing the territories to take on more debt.

It also asks Congress to address Puerto Rico’s debt, which has been plaguing the island for over a decade.

But opponents said reform needs to start on the inside first.

“If that isn’t fixed, no amount of money is going to change, you know, the reality for Puerto Rican citizens,” said Salim Furth with the Heritage Foundation.

Furth said he agreed the Islands need some temporary help to get back on their feet after September’s devastating hurricanes. But he said when it comes to running the government and deciding what to do with the debt in Puerto Rico, that’s the territories responsibility.

“If Puerto Rico is going to succeed in the long term, we can’t come in with Band-Aids on all these real deep structural problems and I see this bill as short-circuiting the reform effort that is going to make Puerto Rico successful in the rest of the 21st century,” he added.

In total, the bill would give $146 billion to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for recovery and rebuilding efforts.

But the future of the legislation remains uncertain as it faces an uphill battle gaining Republican support.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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