A new task force created to steer the White House’s policy toward Puerto Rico will meet for the first time Tuesday, according to a White House official, as President Joe Biden’s administration begins considering a deeper set of economic reforms for the American territory.
The creation of the task force fulfills a campaign pledge from Biden, and it comes after his administration has released billions of dollars of previously withheld federal aid meant to help the island recover from a series of natural disasters, including 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
White House officials indicated that the task force would consider a range of pressing issues for Puerto Rico, including relief for the island’s debt and retrofitting its infrastructure to meet modern standards.
“The president is committed to recovery, renewal and respect for Puerto Rico,” said the White House official. “But there are significant obstacles that only a whole of government approach can meet, and this working group will lead that effort.”
The official added that supporting the island was “an administration-wide priority.”
Three top White House officials will serve as co-chairs of the task force: White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chávez Rodriguez, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice.
Biden has long-promised the creation of a White House group that will handle matters related to Puerto Rico. In an Orlando Sentinel opinion editorial from December 2019, the then-presidential hopeful wrote that the objective of the federal working group was to “make sure the island has all the federal resources and technical support that it needs.”
And while campaigning in Florida last fall, the president released his plan to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet amid devastation from hurricanes and earthquakes and the effects of a years-long economic crisis. The “Plan for Recovery, Renewal and Respect for Puerto Rico,” as Biden’s macro Puerto Rico policy is titled, included pledges to modernize infrastructure, develop economic initiatives, improve public education, and establish the task force.