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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Chamber of Commerce outlines goals for 2023

Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liza García

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) officials spoke Tuesday about the entity’s goals for 2023, including allowing Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP, or locally, PAN) beneficiaries to work without losing benefits, healthcare parity, tax reform, stable energy and infrastructure development.

The PRCC noted its role in avoiding the Medicare cliff. President Biden signed on Tuesday the $1.7 trillion budget bill. The legislation would allocate over $19 billion in Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico for the next five years and $1 billion to acquire and install solar panels and energy storage batteries on the roofs of residences for low-income and disabled people on the island.

“There are still disparities in Medicaid, like prolonged care, Part B coverage, but we want to increase the program’s base,” a PRCC official said during a press conference. “There are still efforts for equity in Medicaid Advantage. In March, we expect the new rules, and there is a discussion of legislation for those that have both Medicare-Medicaid.”

Regarding nutrition, PRCC Executive Director Liza García said the organization is working with the Retailers Association and the Coalition for Food to lobby Congress to extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Puerto Rico.

The island lost funding from the Nutritional Assistance Program obtained after the 2017 hurricanes. PRCC officials not only told U.S. lawmakers that people would not be able to eat, but that businesses would be impacted.

“This is an economic problem,” García said.

The officials emphasized that Puerto Rico must not only be able to allow needy people to receive benefits, but also to work without getting penalized.

Kenneth Rivera, a certified public accountant, noted that under SNAP beneficiaries can work without losing benefits.

“We want people to be able to work,” he said. “SNAP can be adjusted by inflation, contrary to NAP, in which people get a fixed block of funding.”

The subject may be tackled in the summer when Congress votes on the Farm Bill, said PRCC President Cameron McKenzie, who noted the entity will make two more trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the change.

The PRCC will also focus on tax reform to reduce taxes for businesses and individuals and repeal the inventory tax, which is paid by businesses on merchandise that is not sold. The tax ranges from 6.33 percent to 10.33 percent islandwide.

McKenzie said the island’s economy will not suffer as much during an inflation that will hit globally because of incoming federal funds.

“The political structure must use this juncture to focus on economic development, including making permitting more agile,” he said.

García said that as they have done in the past, the PRCC will push for the repeal of the inventory tax, which is a key source of funding for municipalities. It will promote a bill that would repeal the inventory tax in times of emergency. Another bill the PRCC will promote will replace the inventory tax with the sales and use taxes imposed on online purchases as a source of funding for island towns.

At the federal level, the PRCC hopes to obtain incentives to create jobs in manufacturing as well as incentives for businesses that kept their workers after Hurricane Fiona, a benefit given to the sector after the 2017 hurricane season. Rivera said the PRCC must also work to ease the impact of the GILTI regulations, as all U.S.-owned controlled foreign corporations are subject to a minimum corporate tax rate of 10.5%.

Puerto Rico must also integrate itself into the process of “reshoring” to bring jobs back to the island, Rivera said.

McKenzie said that besides incentives laws, the PRCC will support repealing the Jones Act, the maritime shipping laws that require goods to be transported in U.S. vessels among U.S. ports.

The PRCC will also support increasing renewable energy sources and promote accessible and cost-efficient energy.

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