Waiver Of Emergency Payments Act (WEPA) Introduced By Reps. Gutiérrez & Espaillat
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.
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.
“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.”
A one-page summary of WEPA: WEPA One Pager Final.doc
Bill text of WEPA: WEPA Final.pdf
Earlier in the day, at a hearing held by the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Gutiérrez and other Members of Puerto Rican descent were allowed to sit in the hearing and ask questions of the witnesses, Natalie Jaresko, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Junta; Noel Zamot, the Revitalization Coordinator of the Junta who has been nominated to oversee PREPA, the electric power company, and the Mayor of Guaynabo, Angel Perez Otero. A video of the Congressman’s questions and answers at the hearing is here: https://youtu.be/-JjLk_tm4bw
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He was born in Chicago to parents who migrated to the mainland from San Sebastián, Puerto Rico in the 1950s. He attended high school and began college in Puerto Rico and has lived there at various times in his life.
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