WASHINGTON -- The White House will ask Congress for more money to assist Puerto Rico "in the next two to four weeks," presidential adviser Tom Bossert said Thursday.
The administration will request additional funding on top of an existing $7.1 billion appropriation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that becomes available on Oct. 1, said Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser. The U.S. is recovering from a series of hurricanes that hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Among the biggest beneficiaries of federal aid will be Puerto Rico's electric power authority and water authority, as authorities seek to reestablish vital public utilities that many on the island have gone without since the landfall of Hurricane Maria more than a week ago.
The Office of Management and Budget said Thursday that the situation in Puerto Rico remained an "active disaster" and that it was "too soon to have assessments" of what the administration would request from Capitol Hill.
"We are currently focused on a lifesaving response," OMB spokesman Coalter Baker said in an email.
Bossert said he did not expect the funding request to address the island's nearly $74 billion in debt, but left open the possibility that Congress could help Puerto Rico address its ongoing fiscal challenges. The administration has waived requirements that the Puerto Rico territorial government match federal funds going to the island for the next six months, in what administration officials have described as an acknowledgment of the debt crisis.
"I don't think we have to address the debt restructuring issue in the next go around," Bossert said. "If we do, President Trump is up to that challenge."
On Monday, Trump tweeted that there is "billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with."
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