November 7, 2017
Press Release
Makes Federal Share of Disaster Relief 100% for Puerto Rico

Washington, DC – At a press conference today, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced the Waiver of Emergency Payments Act (WEPA), a bill to eliminate cost-sharing requirements for Puerto Rico for recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“Puerto Rico was in a dire financial strain before Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria and has struggled every day since the storms made landfall,” said Rep. Espaillat. “Puerto Rico is flat out broke and to require the island to pay for its own recovery is simply outrageous and harsh. We introduced this bill as part of our efforts to continue the call for emergency federal assistance to rebuild Puerto Rico and to ensure the island receives the funding it needs and does not have to pay for its own clean up. It’s simply the right thing to do.”       

“Puerto Rico needs all the help it can get and should not be constrained in asking for help based on what it can pay back, said Rep. Gutiérrez.  “The government of Puerto Rico is already controlled by the financial oversight and management board, known as the Junta.  Let’s not mess around with payments and waivers; Puerto Rico should be off the hook, period, punto, when it comes to recovery.”

Under current law (the Stafford Act that governs FEMA major disaster assistance), Puerto Rico or any U.S. state or territory would be expected to pay up to 25% of the costs to the federal government of disaster relief.  In addition, with certain forms of assistance the Administration has the authority to assume a cost share greater than 75% by waiving a percentage of the state or territory cost share, but such waivers are often time limited and rarely dip below 10%.

Under WEPA, if enacted, all cost-sharing would be waived for Puerto Rico in handling the current disaster.  The bill does not have an assigned bill number as of this writing.

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First elected to Congress in 2016, Rep. Adriano Espaillat is serving his first term in Congress where he serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the House Select Committee on Small Business.  He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and serves in a leadership role as CHC Freshman Representative to the Democratic Caucus. He is also chairman of the CHC Task Force for Transportation, Infrastructure and Housing.  Rep. Espaillat’s Congressional District includes Harlem, East Harlem, northern Manhattan and the north-west Bronx. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

Media inquiries: Candace Randle Person at Candace.Person@mail.house.gov