Is Puerto Rico in the process of a renewed government?
Puerto Ricans in Central Florida are hopeful
Hours before Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló leaves office, Puerto Ricans in Central Florida are clinging to hope of a renewed and transparent government.
Freddie Agrait moved to Orlando in 2017 after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
"We have gone through a period of overspending by governments of both parties. There's a general feeling that the system is broken," Agrait said.
His hope is that next year's elections will be an opportunity for the people to chose government representatives who will genuinely wok for them.
"We have to have fiscally responsible individuals that will not be looking on what contracts I can give to my friends or family, but what can I do for my people," Agrait said.
Yanidsi Velez, senior director of the Hispanic Federation in Florida, said the island has seen a steady decline in its economy for almost two decades.
"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of families who have been on financial hardship for several years now," Velez said.
Velez believes the current political turmoil in Puerto Rico will have an impact on migration to the U.S.
"We have seen an increase in number of people reaching out to us for more information and assistance and planning on how to assist their family members that probably will come within the next couple of months," Velez said. "This uncertainty affects the economic development in Puerto Rico and that's also something that as a diaspora we can do here to make sure that we are talking with the legislators, elected officials."
One of their main concerns are the funds the island receives from the federal government.
Florida U.S. Rep. Darren Soto spoke with News 6 about the work being done on Capitol Hill to make sure Puerto Rico is not left out of funds.
"Puerto Rico today has only gotten about a third of the over $40 billion that Congress allocated early last year. A lot of it has to do with the red tape that the Trump administration put forward," Soto said. "We have to fight for that money 'cause they're not a state so they don't get equal cost sharing where they get 75 to 83% of their medicaid paid for by the federal government. Right now, they get less than half."
Soto introduced a bill that would allow Puerto Rico statehood, which he says would benefit the island in many ways.
"We have 66% of Americans now supporting statehood as of a Gallup poll last week, 85% of Puerto Ricans in Florida supporting it," Soto said.
The benefits of statehood would allow Puerto Rico to have two U.S. Senators and four members of Congress representing its citizens.
"First we would have a delegation fighting for them, so that's absolutely critical. Second, you would have consistent rules and equality in all these different benefits," Soto said.
Soto expects a hearing in September to discuss the possibility of statehood but said the first step is educating everyone in Congress about it.
Soto noted he expects the 2020 election to include a statehood yes or no question. At that time,
the people of Puerto Rico will also have the opportunity to vote for a new governor.