House Passes Congress’ First Amendment To PROMESA, More Reforms Needed to Improve Quality of Life for Puerto Ricans

Washington D.C. – The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 683,the Puerto Rico Recovery Accuracy in Disclosures Act of 2019(PRRADA), the first amendment approved by either chamber of Congress to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The legislation – introduced by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) – mandates financial disclosures by professionals working on PROMESA debt adjustment cases before they can seek compensation for their services, with the goal of preventing conflicts of interest. 

Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is an original cosponsor of PRRADA, which is also included in Grijalva’s Amendments to PROMESA Act (H.R. 6975) that was introduced in May to stop fiscal austerity measures, guarantee essential public services funding, and aggressively reduce Puerto Rico’s public debt. 

“I am grateful for the small step we took today to make necessary reforms to PROMESA,”  Grijalva said. “Passing this measure gets us closer to addressing PROMESA’s shortfalls and making sure it serves the people of Puerto Rico. With continued support from Rep. Velázquez and other champions, both in Puerto Rico and in Congress, we can build a better future for the island based on public input rather than austerity politics.”

The Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over all U.S. insular areas, including Puerto Rico. Upon taking the lead of the Committee, Chair Grijalva visited the island in 2019 two times, in March and September, to hear directly from Puerto Ricans and survey the impacts of ongoing financial austerity and recent natural disasters.  

In May 2019, Chair Grijalva held a full Committee hearing on PROMESA, where it became clear that extreme budget cuts are reducing the quality of life for the residents of Puerto Rico. In October 2019, Chair Grijalva held two legislative hearings on a discussion draft of amendments to PROMESA. On day one, the Committee received testimony from witnesses from the Financial Oversight and Management Board, the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, and elected officials from Puerto Rico. On day two, the Committee heard from unions, non-profit organizations, professors, economists, and scientists who agreed that the core elements of what is now the Amendments to PROMESA Act are vital to the future of Puerto Rico.

Chair Grijalva has been a champion of Puerto Rico’s recovery and a vocal critic of President Trump’s negligence of the island, Republicans’ humanitarian blockade, and President Trump’s mismanagement of disaster recovery efforts

In February 2020, Chair Grijalva was a leading voice in the fight to secure emergency earthquake funding for Puerto Rico following a dozen earthquakes of greater than 5.0 magnitude on the island. Grijalva sent Committee staff to Puerto Rico on a fact-finding mission to survey earthquake damage and released a report in February 2020 that details their firsthand accounts. The report urged passage of H.R. 5687, which provides $4.67 billion in emergency aid to Puerto Rico; the bill was blocked by Senate Republicans and the Trump White House.  

Earlier this year, Chair Grijalva called on President Trump to immediately release aid to Puerto Rico that Congress had appropriated after hurricanes María and Irma devastated the island in 2017 – aid the Trump administration had refused to release. Trump’s decision to withhold federal disaster recovery funds following the hurricanes has made earthquake reconstruction and financial recovery even more difficult than it would otherwise have been.