Velázquez Joins Teachers, Health Care Workers to Demand Action for Puerto Rico
Washington, D.C. –Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) spoke at a press conference alongside Puerto Rican teachers and health care professionals to call on Congress to pass additional federal recovery assistance for the Island. She was also joined by representatives from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU 32BJ.
Additionally, Velázquez highlighted how the Republican “tax scam” will further decimate Puerto Rico’s fragile economy. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery.
A video of the entire event is online here: https://www.facebook.com/HouseDemocrats/videos/10155817929013548/
“Thank you all for being here. More than 10 weeks after Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the Island remains in a state of devastation. One-third of the Island remains without power. I was in my hometown of Yabucoa this weekend – where Maria made landfall. Today, the town looks like the storm hit yesterday – not two months ago. People are still standing in line for food and water.
“The federal government has failed 3.5 million American citizens with its response. For decades, Puerto Rico has been a failed economic laboratory experiment – and the policies implemented here, in this body, have brought the Island to its knees.
“Now, with the potential passage of the Republican “Tax Scam” bill, Puerto Rico faces an economic hurricane – caused right here in the halls of Congress. Under U.S. tax law, American companies located in Puerto Rico have traditionally been considered controlled foreign corporations. This continues to be the case under the Republican tax scam bill.
“But, under this bill, American subsidiaries operating in Puerto Rico will now face a 20% tax when they move their goods off the island. If this becomes law, you can expect to see more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the Island. And, the government of Puerto Rico could lose one-third of its revenue. Just like so many times before, the fault lies right here in Congress. We must to look in the mirror – it is us – Congress - not the people of Puerto Rico.
“We have seen this movie before. The treatment of the Island under Medicaid, Medicare, and various tax policies such as Section 936. And now the tax scam. It is Congress that created the dire economic situation the island finds itself in. Since Maria, more than 215,000 Puerto Ricans have left for the Mainland – for Florida and New York. Imagine how that exodus will accelerate if Puerto Rico’s manufacturing base is further damaged.
“In addition to its many other problems, under the Republican tax scam bill Puerto Rico is treated like a foreign country. Once again, Puerto Rico will suffer because policies enacted in this body – the U.S. Congress! And, eventually, this Tax Scam will mean gutting services that all Americans need like Medicare and Medicaid – services Puerto Rico especially needs following Maria.
“Puerto Rico’s Medicaid shortfall was a looming threat before the Hurricane. After Maria, this issue is even more pressing. Congress must also raise the federal Medicaid matching rate for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to 100 percent. This was done for some states after Katrina -- and that should happen here, too.
“In the long term, this tax scam will mean less investment in education for young people. Close to 60% of the children in Puerto Rico live in poverty. The Island’s schools were struggling before Maria. Now, many have opened without electric power. Some have mold, putting children at risk for respiratory problems. Enrollment is down. You’re going to hear Puerto Rican educators today who can talk about these challenges.
“You know, at this time of year, as the holidays approach, most Americans are inspired to care for one another, to give to charities and be more generous to the less fortunate. Yet, rather than caring for those suffering in Puerto Rico, Congressional Republicans are turning their back on our fellow citizens.
“Rather than provide meaningful relief, they want to push through a tax cut for the biggest corporations and the most wealthy. And they are doing it on the backs of the most vulnerable – in this case, American citizens in Puerto Rico. That’s immoral. It is heartless. It is wrong. And we’re going to call them out on it – and we’re going to keep fighting until Puerto Rico is made whole.”