Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón detailed the provisions for Puerto Rico included in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement approved Tuesday in the U.S. Senate.
In H.R. 3684, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Puerto Rico is eligible to receive funds to improve highway crossings, and it will also benefit from the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program that will develop broadband capacity.
For these funds, governments must develop state plans to be eligible for funding. The state governor has to select an agency or entity to administer the program and be in charge of developing and implementing the plan, and making assignments to local organizations including municipal governments.
The summary of items for Puerto Rico, totaling nearly $1.7 billion, in a space of five years would be: $900 million to rebuild roads and highways; $225 million for bridge replacement and repair; $455 million to improve public transportation options; $13.6 million to support the expansion of an electric vehicle charging network on the island; $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the island, and citizens may be eligible for the affordable connectivity benefit.
Regarding the $900 million destined for highways, the commissioner had already advanced how those funds are expected to be divided in the next five years: for Fiscal Year 2022, Puerto Rico would receive $173,010,000, which represents an increase of $15,010,000 (increase of 9.1%) ; FY 2023 - $176,960,000 an increase of $18,960,000 (11.2% increase); FY 2024 - $180,120,000 an increase of $22,120,000 (11.4% increase); FY 2025 - $183,675,000 an increase of $25,675,000 (11.6% increase); FY 2026 - $187,230,000 an increase of $29,230,000 (11.8% increase).
Puerto Rico would have access to more than $31 billion under competition to: $12.5 billion for bridges with significant economic need; about $16 billion for projects of substantial economic benefit to communities; and $2.5 billion in funds dedicated to electric vehicle charging.
The measure includes other items of funds such as for ferries and terminals that are assigned by formula of passengers and cargo transported in the previous year; the National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) allows states - in this case Puerto Rico is defined as a state - to use 15% of NHPP funds to mitigate the risk of recurring damage or the cost of future repairs due to events extreme weather; funding for local governments to protect, defend and recover from cybersecurity threats; funds for the restoration of ecosystems on public or federal lands, among others.
H.R. 3684 needs to be approved in the House of Representatives to be final, but the commissioner explained that it is not expected to be approved soon because Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House will not vote on that measure until the Senate approves a bill of budget reconciliation that addresses what the White House describes as human infrastructure.