Exclusive discussion with Biden Administration delivers key insights in agenda for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is at an important point of transition after three major disasters in three years and more than a decade of economic decline. Through multi-sectorial efforts, we can take deliberate and forceful steps to change the direction of Puerto Rico’s economic development agenda to promote economic growth and recovery, with an emphasis on inclusive strategies. To that end, Foundation for Puerto Rico created the Fast Forward Puerto Rico discussion series, and yesterday we were honored to host a conversation with Julie Chávez Rodríguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Biden-Harris administration, to help share insights and perspective that will help sharpen our focus and magnify our impact.

According to Chávez Rodríguez, for the Biden-Harris administration is very important to free up the already allocated recovery funds and resources, and remove previous onerous conditions put in place by the past administration. Recently, the current administration announced the release of $1.3B to mitigate future climate disasters and will also remove restrictions on another $4.9B.

“We are digging deep and working quickly”, stated the director.

For the first 100 days of the administration, Chávez Rodríguez stresses the importance of fomenting critical partnerships on the ground to receive a more direct insight into the most immediate actions needed to boost community development across the island. The director looks forward to rebuilding Puerto Rico with key leaders across the government to implement their “Build back better” agenda.

In Puerto Rico, various efforts, initiatives and programs emerged to fill the existing gaps over the past years. For this administration, it’s important to ensure critical engagement to understand the landscape and to effectively scale up or support these emerging local networks to have a greater impact.

“I see [Foundation for Puerto Rico] as a key partner to work with not just to help the administration determine what are the key issues affecting the island, but also to help achieve a more equitable and just society”, says Chávez Rodríguez, whose office engages State, local, and Tribal governments, in addition to elected officials across Puerto Rico and our island communities to address the most pressing issues impacting our country and communities.

As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Chávez Rodríguez is optimistic in identifying these areas of investment from key local stakeholders and to create leadership space power to build collaborative partnerships that are going to take to address these issues.

“The people most affected by the issue... they’re the closest to the solution”, states Chávez Rodríguez.

Chávez Rodríguez highlighted the importance of redoing Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, promoting energy initiatives with renewable sources, and investing in infrastructure. Jon Borschow, FPR’s CEO, mentioned the possibility of developing Puerto Rico as a major international air transit hub and waiver visa requirements for transiting passengers at the airport.  

A top-of-mind priority for the Biden administration is the implementation of the American Rescue Plan, which is a first step in addressing the urgent needs surrounding the pandemic. Under this plan, Puerto Rico should have more funding for testing, vaccines, PPE supplies, and support for small businesses.

As the new administration tackles these issues, Foundation for Puerto Rico will continue to have these conversations and convene diverse stakeholders for a more equitable and just recovery for the island. Like we always say, “there is no future in rebuilding the past”. With this new presidency, we are more eager than ever to build a better future for our Island.

Read more about our conversation with Julie Chavez-Rodriguez in this article published by El Nuevo Día.

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