Meeting your congressional delegation at their Washington DC or district offices sends the strongest message that you care about an issue. Choose which office you want to visit. Legislation is handled by staff in Washington DC but it will be easier to make an appointment at the district offices.
To find out who are you representatives in Congress write your address in the following GovTrack (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/map) link. Their websites, with the contact information for the Washington DC and district offices, will appear next to their names.
When you call the office ask to meet with the member of Congress. If unavailable, ask to meet with the office director. This sends the message that you feel strongly about the issue you want to address. If the only person available is a staffer, take the meeting. If you meet with an office director or staffer reiterate you wish to meet the member in the future.
WHAT TO SAY
Introduce yourself and the state where you live. This information establishes that you are a constituent.
Explain what is your personal connection to Puerto Rico and why you are interested in its well-being.
Be clear on what you are asking your member to do. Remember to take notes during the meeting so you can follow–up on issues.
Here are some suggested asks you can pick and choose from:
Physical damage and lost economic productivity for Puerto Rico has been estimated as high as $95 billion. Congress must appropriate sufficient funding to restore housing and businesses, maximize the use of renewable energy, reconstruct a stronger more resilient infrastructure and jumpstart Puerto Rico’s economy.
Prior to the hurricanes, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure had deteriorated to the point of hindering economic development. Reservoirs are silted and water must rationed during severe droughts. Puerto Ricans pay among he highest electrical rates in the United States.
Congress must authorize FEMA to provide assistance under the Stafford Act without limitation of pre-disaster condition and causation. Federal dollars should be used to IMPROVE not to repair Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, particularly its electrical grid, to its pre-hurricane condition.
Congress must provide disaster assistance without putting Puerto Rico in debt by waiving the FEMA cost-sharing mechanism required to receive assistance programs and by forgiving FEMA Community Disaster Loans as it was done with Hurricane Katrina.
Congress must waive the Jones Act for at least 2 years to lower the costs of all imported goods needed for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.
Health Care Parity
Congress must remove the cap on Federal Medicaid funds provided to Puerto Rico and make Puerto Rico residents eligible for the same Medicare benefits afforded to stateside seniors. The recent hurricanes have aggravated the pre-existing healthcare crisis and funding gap, further incentivizing Puerto Ricans to move to the mainland where they can receive full benefits.
Congress must temporarily increase the Federal Medicaid matching rate for Puerto Rico to 100 percent just as it was raised for the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
Tax Reform Must Do No Harm
On tax reform Congress must do no harm to Puerto Rico. New tax legislation presently considered by Congress must:
1) not levy a 20 percent excise tax on goods manufactured in Puerto Rico by subsidiaries of U.S. corporations;
2) must not tax 12.5 percent of income from intellectual property held by U.S. corporations in Puerto Rico; and,
3) must not stop U.S. corporations operating in Puerto Rico from deducting local Puerto Rico taxes from their Federal returns.
These provisions would force U.S. companies operating in Puerto Rico to move to countries with cheaper labor costs, resulting in a loss of 170,000 jobs on top of the more than 32,000 jobs already lost as a result of Hurricane Maria; and, a loss of over $2 billion in tax revenues, which represents about one quarter of Puerto Rico’s tax revenues
Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. and I ask you to oppose similar changes to the tax code that treats and penalizes Puerto Rico as a foreign country.
Congress must extend the Child Tax Credit to families of one and two children in Puerto Rico. Currently, families in Puerto Rico pay Federal payroll taxes which can be used to claim the Child Tax Credit if they have 3 children or more. Applying to Puerto Rico the same tax benefit available in the 50 states would help mitigate the economic losses of working families after Hurricane Maria and incentivize families with children to stay on the island.
Congress must allow Puerto Rico residents to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. This measure will alleviate post-Hurricane Maria poverty by supplementing earned income and providing an incentive for people to join the formal economy as Puerto Rico recovers.
Ask what your member of Congress will do for Puerto Rico and when will staff get back to you with more information. Thank them for their hard work and let them know you intend to stay in touch.