White House to ask Congress for emergency funds for Puerto Rico

The White House said Thursday it would request emergency supplemental funding from Congress to assist in life-saving and recovery efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

President Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said during a press briefing that the White House will submit an additional request to Congress. Congress earlier on Thursday released nearly $7 billion in funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond to the crisis in Puerto Rico, as well as the devastation caused by two hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. over the last month. 

“We're going to go back for more and ask for that in the form of an emergency supplemental to provide money into the fund that does this life-sustaining effort and even some of the early recovery efforts,” Bossert said.

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Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and is saddled with some $72 billion in debt. Trump has said the island’s fiscal issues “must be dealt with.”

Bossert said the White House is "willing to negotiate with Congress if there’s some better fiscal idea” to solve that problem, but added that there are more pressing problems than restructuring the territory's debt at the moment.

“Whether we have to address or should address at that point their existing $72 billion of debt and how it's been restructured is something that I'll have to take my lead from the economists on,” Bossert said.

 “We're going to put federal money in [rescue and recovery] and do it wisely,” he added. “The president believes in that. I don't think we have to address the debt restructuring issue until the next go around. If we do, and if Congress wants us to, President Trump is up to that challenge.”