After Begging for $94 Billion in Hurricane Aid, Puerto Rico Gives Away $113 Million in Bonuses
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Nevares just paid out over $100 million in Christmas bonuses to the island’s government employees.
This after begging American taxpayers to shell out $94 billion to pay for the territory’s recovery from Hurricane Maria.
Not to mention that President Donald Trump signed a federal government spending bill earlier this year that included $295 million in Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico’s struggling health care system.
The governor argues that the bonuses were part of the budget approved last summer and that they are a longstanding tradition allowed under the law.
I don’t think there is a law that states that the United States has to pay those bonuses!
Governor Rossello is a Democrat who took office in January. #justSayin
Rossello requested the $94 billion federal aid package in November, estimating that $31 billion of the funds would go toward rebuilding homes and $18 billion would go toward repairing electric utilities.
The budget, however, had been approved before Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving the U.S. territory begging for federal aid.
Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board, established by Congress in 2016 to bail the territory out of defaulting on its debt, called the bonuses “imprudent” and said the governor should rethink his allocation of government funds in light of the recent hurricanes.
“Puerto Rico has demonstrated time and time again that its government is incapable of responsibly handling its finances. This is yet another such instance,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), a member of the House committee with oversight over Puerto Rico, told the Washington Times in a statement after the bonuses had been revealed.
Carlos Mentales, who leads Puerto Rico’s office in Washington, had said members of Congress who are pondering the territory’s massive relief request should be aware of all the moves already made by the governor, such as a 20 percent reduction in political appointees in the government and a 15 percent cut in the operating budget.
So 1/5 less political employees, and still more bonuses?
The bonuses date back to the 1970’s in Puerto Rico. They have been controversial in recent years as the island has struggled with debt. The payments in 2015, of about $120 million, sparked a fierce debate on the island.
This year the payments will total $113 million. Some 250,000 people get bonuses, with current workers averaging $600 bonus and retirees getting about $200, Bloomberg news reported.
The bonuses recently raised questions at an oversight board, which fired off a letter Nov. 27 saying the governor should have talked with the board before making the payments, and called the bonuses “imprudent.”
The board was particularly critical of the payments to retirees, who account for more than a third of the money being doled out.
“While the Oversight Board shares in your desire to recognize public employees who have gone above and beyond in aiding recovery efforts across the island, to do so in a way that increases the liquidity strain on the commonwealth at this time puts the public at risk and demonstrates a lack of fiscal discipline,” the board said in its letter, signed by Chairman Jose B. Carrion.
Puerto Rico owes creditors and pension funds more than $120 billion. This year, the island officially began the process of seeking a special form of protection from creditors called Title 3 which is similar to declaring bankruptcy.
46 percent of those living in Puerto Rico already struggling financially. They live below the poverty line.
Ricardo Rossello, a scientist and the son of a former governor, is an ardent supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico.
He has argued that statehood would boost the nation’s economy that has been mired in a decade-long slump.
Rossello recently told The Associated Press that as governor he would draft a state constitution, hold elections to choose two senators and five representatives to Congress and send them to Washington to demand statehood, a strategy used by Tennessee to join the union in the 18th century.
I think that Puerto Rico should get it’s act together first, and in joining this great country of states, come in as a benefit, not a hindrance. It is not our job to save the world. I am all for helping others, but they have to be willing to help themselves.
I have been on the fence as far as Puerto Rico statehood. Giving out bonuses to government employees, monies handed to them for disaster relief by the American tax-payer, tells me they will be a burden, not an asset.
Deal breaker for sure!