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Congressional Task Force Present Recommendations For Puerto Rico

On December 20, 2016, the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which was created by the PROMESA act, published a report about recommended actions that should be taken by Congress on the topic of Puerto Rico’s economic growth. A summary of key recommendations made by the Task Force follows.

Health Care:

  • Medicaid- Congress should enact fiscally-responsible legislation to address the impeding Medicaid cliff established by the ACA. Federal financing of the Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and other territories should be more closely tied to the size and needs of the territory’s low-income population.
  • Medicare (Part A)- Congress should consider providing increased flexibility to the Secretary of HHS to identify data collection and analysis gaps that could be used to improve the accuracy and efficiency of Medicare DSH payments to Puerto Rico hospitals.
  • Medicare (Part B) - Congress should amend federal law so that, going forward, Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B with the option to opt out.
  • Medicare (Part D)- Congress should eliminate the requirement that each territory government meet a local Medicaid matching requirement has prevented the government of Puerto Rico and other territory government.
  • Family-to-Family grant- should enable Puerto Rico and other territories to participate in the program.

Federal Tax Policy:

  • Child Tax Credit- Congress should amend Section 24 of the Internal Revenue Code to authorize otherwise eligible families in Puerto Rico with one child or two children to claim the additional child tax credit.
  • No consensus was reached in support of the earned income tax credit.
  • Provide federal wage subsidies to employees and employers in Puerto Rico (S. 3503, Sen. Rubio)
  • Rum Excise Tax Revenues- Congress should make the full amount of the rum cover-over payment to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands permanent, rather than permanent in part and subject to tax extenders legislation in part.
  • Domestic Production in Puerto Rico- Congress should amend Section 199 so that it applies to Puerto Rico on a permanent basis.

Energy:

  • PREPA and the Puerto Rico Energy Commission should seek technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, and recommends that the U.S. Department of Energy provide all authorized forms of technical and financial assistance.
  • U.S. Department of Energy should assess whether Puerto Rico receives equitable treatment relative to other jurisdictions under grant programs for energy-related research and, if it does not, recommends that USDOE resolve any inequities.

Federal Statistical Programs:

  • Census Bureau should take all reasonable steps to include Puerto Rico in its federal statistical programs, including the quinquennial Census of Governments.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau should take all reasonable steps to include Puerto Rico in the Current Population Survey.

Support for Small Businesses:

  • Congress should enact legislation to increase the guaranty rate and require a separate subsidy calculation for 7 (a) loans made in Puerto Rico.
  • Waive or reduce fee in the case of a lender who makes an approved 7 (a) loan to a borrower located in Puerto Rico.

Other:

  • Secretary of Commerce should appoint at least one member from Puerto Rico to the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
  • Conduct a Survey of International Air Travelers.
  • Open a U.S. Economic Development Administration office in Puerto Rico where it will provide technical assistance.
  • Conduct evaluation of the Electronic Export Information for shipments between the states and Puerto Rico.
  • Congress should pass the U.S. Territories Investor Protection Act of 2016. Under current law, such companies are exempt from registration under the Act provided that their shares are sold solely to the residents of the territory in which they are located.
  • Congress and Federal agencies should support the restore of Caño Martin Peña.
  • Conduct more studies about the impact of landfills on public health and the environment.
  • Consider the merits and demerits of legislation to authorize Puerto Rico to have greater flexibility in its use of Unemployment Compensation benefits for the purpose of increasing employment.
  • If the government of Puerto Rico conducts a plebiscite authorized and funded by Public Law 113-76, the Task Force recommends that Congress analyze the result of this plebiscite with care and seriousness of purpose, and take any appropriate legislative action.
Víctor R. Martínez
Friday, April 14, 2017 - 5:45pm