President Biden has been committed to supporting the people of Puerto Rico since his first day in office. The Biden-Harris Administration has made unprecedented levels of federal funding available to Puerto Rico for resilience, recovery, infrastructure, and economic growth. This has created an opportunity for Puerto Rico to make transformational change on the island. To seize on this moment, the President established the White House Working Group on Puerto Rico to coordinate federal efforts, co-chaired by Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, National Economic Advisor Brian Deese, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez
Today, the White House hosted Governor Pedro Pierluisi and members of his cabinet for the first Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue, to ensure resources from the federal and Puerto Rico governments are invested effectively, swiftly, and equitably to benefit all residents of Puerto Rico. This new initiative will renew and strengthen the working relationship between Washington, D.C. and San Juan and build on the progress that has already been made during this Administration to support inclusive prosperity and dignity, equality, and respect for Puerto Rico.
This historic meeting, chaired by Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator Don Graves, brought together Puerto Rico’s leadership and the White House Working Group on Puerto Rico to chart a comprehensive plan for joint action to further the island’s economic growth. During the meeting, federal agencies and their Puerto Rico counterparts endorsed a slate of actions and partnerships they will implement over the course of 2023. These shared priorities will inform investments in Puerto Rico, improve coordination and management of disaster recovery and other funding, and ensure long-term partnership, respect, and transparency. Over the next 12 months, both governments will take steps together to:
- Strengthen human capital and workforce development to create more good jobs and training opportunities in high-growth industries for Puerto Rico’s workers.
- Invest in infrastructure, energy, and resilience to ensure Puerto Rico can withstand future natural disasters and support a thriving, sustainable economy.
- Build a diversified economy that promotes innovation, competition, access to capital, and entrepreneurship, particularly for Puerto Rico’s small businesses.
- Improve governance and data collection and analysis in Puerto Rico to support greater transparency, access to information, administrative capacity, and a more robust business climate for Puerto Rico residents.
Today, federal and Puerto Rican agencies announced the following new actions.
Human Capital and Workforce Development
- The Comisión de Voluntariado y Servicio Comunitario de Puerto Rico, with support from AmeriCorps, will implement a state service plan to expand national service in Puerto Rico and conduct extensive outreach for the open Public Health AmeriCorps Notice of Funding Opportunity to support pathways to employment in the public health sector. AmeriCorps will also use American Rescue Plan funds to add AmeriCorps VISTA projects and members in Puerto Rico.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) will partner to connect recipients of the NAP food assistance block grant to workforce development opportunities.
- The government of Puerto Rico will invest $50 million to launch the 21st Century Workforce Project to build workforce training infrastructure across the higher education and technical college systems. The Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) and DDEC, with technical assistance from the Department of Education (ED), will also update Puerto Rico’s Career & Technical Education curriculum to more closely align it with the island’s labor industry needs.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) will partner with the Green Energy Trust, University of Puerto Rico, and other stakeholders to build local capacity and expertise on emerging energy topics, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, microgrid design and operation, and electric vehicles.
- The Puerto Rico Department of the Family and the University of Puerto Rico will enter into a new memorandum of understanding, with support from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to outline a plan to maintain a pool of social workers, prioritize retention strategies, and mitigate high caseloads while increasing salary rates through Title IV-E funding.
- HHS, the Census Bureau, USDA, and DDEC will jointly develop digital tools that link job-seekers with competency trainings, apprenticeships, and employment within high-growth industries including healthcare.
- DDEC and the Department of Labor (DOL) will expand the use of Registered Apprenticeship in critical sectors of the Puerto Rican economy, including construction, advanced manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, and health care. With support from DOL, DDEC and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources (PRDLHR) has committed to increase federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act fund utilization by $15 million by the end of the 2023 fiscal year, unlocking greater investment in workforce training and development initiatives.
- The Economic Development Administration (EDA) will invest $6.7 million through a new partnership with UnidosUS and the One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico to provide workforce training in high-growth construction and aviation sectors.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ana G. Méndez University in Bayamón will enter a partnership to strengthen local workforce training for mold, lead, and asbestos remediation, advancing environmental justice, job placement, and resilience.
Infrastructure, Energy, and Resilience
- The Department of the Treasury and the government of Puerto Rico will work to approve plans for $158 million from the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund to deliver high-speed internet access to households and businesses who currently lack access, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities and remote areas with inadequate service.
- The Puerto Rico Office of Management and Budget (OGP), in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will fully establish a Broadband Program Office to coordinate and oversee broadband initiatives across the island. The Broadband Program will work to advance high-speed internet planning, infrastructure, adoption and access across the island, with NTIA providing technical assistance and $5.7 million under its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity programs.
Energy Grid Modernization
- The Department of Energy (DOE) will lead an interagency Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Commerce (DOC), to collaborate more intensively on the build-out of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure. Secretary Granholm will convene the team monthly and work closely with Governor Pierluisi to accelerate projects that rebuild an electricity grid that is more resilient, secure, and capable of supporting 100% clean electricity by 2050.
- FEMA will adopt a new island-wide approach to approving projects to mitigate hazards to the energy grid, speeding up project development and completion of Hurricane Maria resilience work, and prioritizing proposals that increase resilience across the entire grid.
- FEMA will partner with DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install temporary generation capacity and perform repairs that, together, will stabilize Puerto Rico’s energy grid and add approximately 600-700 megawatts of capacity. This will enable the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA Energy to repair damage to the power system caused by Hurricanes Maria and Fiona without compromising service to homes and businesses.
Environment and Sustainability
- Secretary Haaland will work with Governor Pierluisi to jointly appoint three Trustees and a federal representative to the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust in the first quarter of 2023. The Department of the Interior (DOI) will also invest in key infrastructure projects to improve management and access for Puerto Rico’s protected lands in partnership with local communities, including a new office facility at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and road repairs at Caribbean National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH), and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) will partner to maximize the impact of $78.4 million in annual funding for water infrastructure that the island receives through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. EPA will also invest $1.6 million to support an inventory of brownfield sites in the municipalities of Aibonito, Aguas Buenas, Corozal, and Las Piedras to begin cleaning up and redeveloping these sites into community assets.
- DNER will develop a sustainable program for solid waste management and administer $40 million in recovery funds for its implementation, with technical assistance from the EPA. EPA and DNER will also jointly pilot a new program incentivizing the closure of open dumps in Puerto Rico and installation of solar panels, building on an EPA and DOE study of 19 landfills on the island for solar feasibility.
Recovery and Renewal
- The Department of Defense (DOD) will invest $1.5 million to enable the Local Redevelopment Authority for the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station to carry out infrastructure and development projects, in partnership with DDEC and the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) will jointly facilitate major infrastructure works and innovative financing for priority projects across the island.
- The Puerto Rico Department of Housing (Vivienda) and six municipalities in the new ConSur consortium will implement recovery projects in areas hard-hit by earthquakes in 2019 and 2020 and launch an action plan for over $200 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds for housing, economic development, and infrastructure recovery projects.
- Vivienda, with support from HUD, will also develop a comprehensive State Housing Plan for Puerto Rico, committing to specific actions to meet housing needs in the wake of bankruptcy and recent natural disasters.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will award key contracts to undertake major public works projects, including: the Caño Martin Peña project to re-establish the tidal connection between San Jose Lagoon and San Juan Bay, and important flood risk management projects in Rio Puerto Nuevo, Rio Grande de Arecibo, and Rio de la Plata.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will establish the Rural Partners Network in 15 municipalities, identifying priority economic development projects and hiring four new federal staff in Puerto Rico to help these places navigate and access federal funding. USDA will also increase direct outreach, Spanish translation, and local partnerships to build awareness of federal programs available to support Puerto Rico’s rural and agricultural community, including the deployment of a new Emergency Conservation Program for agricultural communities impacted by Hurricane Fiona.
- DOD and DDEC will each invest approximately $2 million to bring LIFT, an advanced manufacturing research & development facility, to Puerto Rico. LIFT will invest an additional $2 million in this public-private partnership to further develop the technological capacity of the island’s manufacturers and provide advanced manufacturing training opportunities.
- USDA will partner with the gateway communities to El Yunque National Forest to establish a shuttle system that enhances access to El Yunque and build new economic opportunities through tourism.
- EDA will recognize the Southern Puerto Rico Economic Development District as the island’s first certified Economic Development District. This will create a new local-federal partnership to support entrepreneurs, mobilize new resources, and plan for economic growth in Puerto Rico’s south.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will invest more than $7.5 million in efforts by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), University of Puerto Rico, and others to ensure sustainable natural resources, support coastal and marine research and education, and improve safety in the marine and coastal environment.
Access to Capital
- The Department of the Treasury and the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico will work towards launching Puerto Rico’s State Small Business Credit Initiative programs, using over $100 million in federal capital funding from the American Rescue Plan to provide credit for small businesses and draw up to $1 billion in additional private financing to support the expansion of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and good-paying jobs in Puerto Rico.
- The Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA) will provide technical assistance to increase access to capital and government contracting for businesses in Puerto Rico, and host an Investor Summit in Puerto Rico together with the Department of the Treasury, Small Business Administration (SBA), Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury, and DDEC.
- SBA, the Puerto Rico Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and Puerto Rico Credit Union State Regulator (COSSEC) will promote access to capital by delivering a lender training series focused on increasing participation in SBA loan programs by Puerto Rican financial institutions, with a focus on Community Development Corporations, Community Development Financial Institutions, and Minority Depository Institutions.
- SBA and the Puerto Rico General Service Administration will support small businesses in Puerto Rico through entrepreneurial development training, counseling, and the export assistance programs, and work to ensure that federal agencies increase Puerto Rico-based procurement efforts, particularly for Small Disadvantaged Businesses.
Governance and Data
- The Department of the Treasury will enter into a memorandum of understanding with Hacienda on long-term public finance capacity-building to help improve Puerto Rico’s administration of complex, technical governmental financial functions.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA), Puerto Rico Department of the Family, and other stakeholders will work together to build mutual understanding and capacity for any future transition from the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) block grants currently provided to Puerto Rico to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- The Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE), with technical assistance from the Department of Education (ED), will increase personnel and resources to build administrative capacity across the island’s school system. PRDE and ED will also sign an agreement to advance long-term systemic improvements for management and administration of the school system.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) will pursue department-wide language translation services to develop resources in Spanish so that Puerto Rican stakeholders are better able to seek grant and formula funding opportunities.
- The National Council on Disability will provide technical assistance to both federal and Puerto Rico government agencies to ensure actions announced at the Economic Dialogue are implemented in a way that is inclusive of and accessible to people with disabilities.
Data and Transparency
- The government of Puerto Rico, with technical assistance from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will create an energy information portal to improve access to information about energy sector activities in Puerto Rico. DOE will also disseminate initial results of the PR100 study, a comprehensive evaluation of the pathways for Puerto Rico to meet its target of 100% renewable energy by 2050 while improving reliability, resilience, and energy justice.
- The government of Puerto Rico will expand its Citizen Information Portal (PIC) to include the projects and actions committed to in the Economic Dialogue, in order to foster transparency and accountability for progress on these initiatives.
- The Census Bureau will develop Puerto Rico-specific core statistics and related products to facilitate better data and governance by Puerto Rican agencies including DDEC, Vivienda, and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources.
- The Department of the Treasury will announce rates of uptake achieved for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for Tax Year 2021 and support Puerto Rico’s marketing and administrative simplification efforts to ensure even more eligible families receive the CTC. This follows over a year of collaboration between White House, Department of Treasury, government of Puerto Rico, and local stakeholders to ensure a successful first-time implementation of the American Rescue Plan’s permanent expansion of the CTC in Puerto Rico.