• The Star Staff

González presses for PR in FY2021 budget before House Appropriations Committee

By The Star Staff

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said Tuesday that she stressed to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Appropriations her priorities for Puerto Rico in the FY2021 budget.

“Our island has the capacity, infra- structure and manpower to play a leading role in the efforts of the United States to secure the national supply chain for medical products,” González Colón said in a written communication.

The resident commissioner said she emphasized requests for increased funds from the Nutritional Assistance Program (known as PAN in Puerto Rico by its Spanish acronym); resources for the Caño Martín Peña and other mitigation projects; increas- ing the supply and domestic capacity of pharmaceutical products and medical sup- plies, cataloging it as national security issue using the island as a place to develop these industries, among other issues; and initia- tives for which she had already advocated in subcommittee hearings on appropriations during February and March.

The resident commissioner also re- quested an increase in the $1.9 billion suggested by the Trump administration for the PAN program in Puerto Rico.

On March 3, the resident commissioner made the same request to the Agriculture Subcommittee of the Appropriations Com- mittee, in which she received a positive response from Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), chairman and minority leader of the subcommittee, respectively, who expressed themselves in favor of working together with her to eliminate the disparities in the nutritional assistance programs on the island.

González Colón stressed at Tuesday’s hearing that additional resources be as- signed to the United States Army Corps of Engineers to help advance projects such as the Guayanilla River and the Grande de Loíza River, among others, which received partial complementary funds after Hurri- cane Maria. She also requested an increase in the number of new start projects to no less than eight, and that of these, four be ecosystem restoration projects. This will help to better position projects already authorized by Congress, including the Caño Martin Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project in San Juan, she said.

In the defense area, the resident com- missioner defended language to urge the executive branch to use the Defense Produc- tion Law to increase the domestic supply and capacity of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies produced in the United States, and in turn expand the presence of research and pharmaceutical industry on the island as a matter of national security. Along with Reps. Donna Shalala (D- Fla.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Rubén Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), the resident commissioner filed HR 6443, the 2020 National Supply Chain Security Act, which would secure the supply chain nationwide by provid- ing incentives to “distressed zones” in the United States and its territories. On June 8, the resident commissioner met with the assistant to the president, director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and public policy coordinator of the National Defense Production Law, Peter Navarro, to discuss how to attract new manufacturing

to Puerto Rico.

On March 12, González Colón de- posed before the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in support of this request, as well as more federal funds and resources for the Fisher House, the Youth ChalleNGe program of the Na- tional Guard and the Civil Air Patrol, and González Colón spoke in opposition to the proposed closure of the International Institute ofTropical Forestry, based in Puerto Rico, which has been vital in advancing knowledge of tropical ecosystems at the local, national and international levels. The resident commissioner’s petitions for fiscal year 2021 encompass funds for environmental conservation and historic sites, as well as veteran services and mili- tary construction, plus resources to fight crime in Puerto Rico, and for commerce and science, including funds for the Are- cibo Observatory, and for tsunami and CariCOOS alerts.

Each year, Congress prepares a budgetfor the following fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30 of the following year, detailing expenses, the budget for federal agencies, as well as funds for the various federal programs.e for the Federal Emergency Management Agency related to the authorities in locations in Puerto Rico, including municipalities that are still recovering from the 2020 hurricanes and earthquakes, to achieve faster disburse- ment of Public Assistance payments and reimbursements for immediate response categories, and to facilitate the initiation and termination of construction projects.