Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board, the agency that oversees efforts to help Puerto Rico lift itself out of debt, has retained lobbying shop Williams & Jensen for advocacy help in Washington on a slew of tax, energy, transportation and financial/economic initiatives in the wake of the Hurricane Maria crisis.
The fiscal control board was established last year in light of the passage of PROMESA, or the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act. That federal law was enacted to restore economic growth to the financially struggling U.S. territory amid its estimated $71 billion debt, much of which occurred after the commonwealth took out high-interest loans from hedge funds to repay hundreds of millions in interest it already owed on municipal bonds.
The economic agency, whose seven-member board was appointed by President Obama, facilitates Puerto Rico's financial negotiations and has the authority to approve its budget. Many Puerto Ricans — including unions, environmental organizations and several political parties — opposed the establishment of the fiscal control board last year, with demonstrators protesting and erecting tents outside of federal buildings during board meetings.
FOMB has retained Williams & Jensen for help with disaster relief and recovery efforts, as well as tax reform, economic development, transportation, energy and electricity, financial services, budget/appropriations and Medicaid funding in Puerto Rico, according to lobbying registration documents filed in October.
An eight-person team at Williams & Jensen manages the account, including agency principals George Baker and Denis Dwyer.
Officials have now said that Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on the island’s infrastructure and already-fragile electric grid could take months to repair.
More than 80 percent of the island’s 3.4 million people still lack electricity, and current estimates claim that only about half of Puerto Rico’s residents have access to drinking water. The United States has sent more than 14,000 federal workers to Puerto Rico since the storm hit. The official death toll now stands at 45.
President Trump, who has previously stated that the Puerto Rico recovery efforts are “costing a lot of money” and “breaking his budget,” today tweeted that the U.S. “cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”