Vice President Harris
Kamala Harris during her visit to Puerto Rico, March 22, 2024. (Photo: RRSS)

Philadelphia, PA – Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris made a statement to Puerto Rican people across the United States: your families, your people, and your island matter.

Through executive action and leadership, the Biden administration has given much needed attention to the people of Puerto Rico to ensure that they are not left behind. This visit is another indication of the Biden administration’s continued commitment to Puerto Rico.

The visit had a refreshing tone that differed from previous visits by US leaders. Instead of touring the island to survey damage from natural disasters, she arrived to see how our people have begun to bounce back and recover from the tragedies that have occurred. She commended them for their resilience and spoke on the bright future ahead.

The Vice President’s first stop on the island was Canóvanas, a town outside of San Juan that had over 15,000 homes impacted. In 2017, during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Canóvanas went weeks without any electricity or power. During the chaos they struggled to receive any communication from the previous administration. Once forgotten, Canóvanas and its communities were now at the center of Vice President Harris’ visit.

Kamala Harris during her visit to Puerto Rico, March 22, 2024. (Photo: RRSS)

The Vice President visited the home of 84-year-old María Esther Ramos, who was able to benefit from federal dollars to rebuild her home. Maria’s family applied to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Home Repair, Reconstruction, or Relocation (R3) Program, and used the money to rebuild her home in a little over a year. Thanks to this life-changing grant, Maria is still living in the same place where she’s lived for more than 60 years; the same place where she raised her seven children and watched them grow and return with children of their own.

Maria’s story is a perfect example of Biden and Harris’ mission to build back better. Maria’s new home is structured to be resistant to future instances of severe weather and it is more energy efficient. Her daughter talked about how their energy bills have gone down to $3 dollars and that her water bills have gone down to $18 from sometimes a high of $60.

Kamala Harris during her visit to Puerto Rico, March 22, 2024. (Photo: RRSS)

The Biden-Harris Administration has invested more than $140 billion dollars into Puerto Rico, which have gone to a variety of things, including rebuilding public infrastructure, increasing energy resilience, and supporting the island’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. Nearly $3 billion is being used to rebuild the homes of Puerto Ricans like Maria’s. Those dollars can be leveraged with other grants to install home energy upgrades. Maria and her family used them to install solar panels on her new home, increasing energy resilience and bringing down her bills.

Maria’s story highlights the President and Vice President’s goal for Puerto Ricans on the island to have access to a life with dignity and safety so they can focus on reaching their goals, dreams, and highest potential.

During the trip, the Vice President underscored that there is still more work to do. She spoke on the potential of this island to serve as a place where innovation happens.

In their time in the White House, we have seen them walk that walk. They launched the Smart Island program, which will provide digital connectivity for all residential as well as government and commercial buildings. This will ensure that our cousins, parents, grandparents, and siblings who call the island home will not be victims of a digital divide.

On top of that, the administration is working to make Puerto Rico a leader in tech. Last year they designated the PRBio Tech Hub as one of 31 inaugural Tech Hubs in the U.S. and introduced 24 new registered apprenticeship programs, and registered approximately 770 new apprentices, providing practical training and skills for workers.

Actions like the ones these are dearly important to me, a proud Puerto Rican who has family and friends who live on the island. In Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community we are always mindful not just of our neighbors but of our loved ones back on the island. When it comes to important issues, we always keep our home away from home in mind. President Biden and Vice President Harris have continued to show that they hear us, they understand us, and they are taking action to support Puerto Rico.

Thank you, Vice President Harris, for visiting Puerto Rico, for seeing Puerto Ricans for who they are, and for committing to working with Puerto Ricans as they build their future.


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