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Puerto Rico asks Congress for $94B

WASHINGTON — Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello unveiled a $94.3 billion disaster relief request to Congress on Monday, a sum that he said is needed to help the U.S. territory adequately recover from Hurricane Maria.

Rossello also promised that the island’s recovery effort will be the “most transparent” in U.S. history as the governor faces criticism over awarding a now-canceled $300 million contract to a small Montana-based company to help rebuild the nation’s electric grid. Over half of Puerto Rico is still without power 54 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The largest chunk of Rossello’s request, $31 billion, would go to housing assistance, with another $17.7 billion to rebuild the island’s power grid and $14.9 billion for health care.

“This is a critical step forward in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico, where we’re not only looking to rebuild as was before but we want to make it much stronger and much more resilient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” Rossello said.

The $94 billion request will likely be pared down by Congress and the Trump administration, as fiscally conservative Republicans will likely oppose such a large long-term aid package, as they did after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The package is over $30 billion more than a $61 billion relief requested by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after Hurricane Harvey.

Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, was also present at Monday’s press conference. She expects Congress to devise two more hurricane relief packages before the end of the year, one by Thanksgiving and the other by Christmas.

“As it happened with [Hurricane] Katrina, they received several supplementals [disaster funding packages] over a 10-year period,” Gonzalez said. “We hope not to go to a 10-year period; we want to rebuild the island quickly and faster.”

Gonzalez also said that more disaster funds could come from amendments to legislation before the end of the year.

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