Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

The Serrano Report- February 19, 2020

Feb 19, 2020
The Serrano Report

In Washington, DC

Congressman Serrano Leads Letter Urging Trump Administration to Stand Up Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) After Puerto Rico Earthquakes

This week, Congressman Serrano led a group of New York Representatives in sending a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, Peter T. Gaynor, urging the agency to enter into an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to allow the Department to put into effect the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) as soon as possible in response to the multiple earthquakes in Puerto Rico. DHAP was used after both Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy to allow affected families to access safe and affordable housing after those disasters. The letter was signed by Representatives Espaillat, Ocasio-Cortez, and Velázquez from New York.

“Thousands of families have been forced to leave Puerto Rico for the 50 States, including New York, because the earthquakes have destroyed their homes and livelihoods.  A recent CNN article described the situation of one family of 14 to 16 people that have been forced to live in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City because they have nowhere else to go.[1]  They are having trouble meeting basic needs. At a time of crisis such as the current one, it is our duty to assist those who have been forced to leave the island.,” the members wrote.

“DHAP has been utilized to assist those similarly affected by previous major disasters.  This program would help families afford rent, a security deposit, and utility costs if forced to relocate to temporary housing.  It will ensure that our fellow Americans will have the resources needed to recover from this latest disaster without endangering the health and well-being of their loved ones.   We ask that FEMA act quickly to approve DHAP for the affected families and individuals,” they added.

Click here for the full text of the letter.

Congressman Serrano Speaks in Favor of Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Bill

Last, week Congressman Serrano spoke in favor of a bill from the House Appropriations Committee bill that would allocate $4.67 billion to help affected communities in Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from the latest earthquakes. Watch his full remarks below:

Play Button

Congressman Serrano Helps Kickoff Dominicans on the Hill Day

"It was an honor to join my good friend, Congressman Espaillat, to kick off his annual Dominicans on the Hill Day. Dominicans presence and contributions to our community continues growing in New York, and there is perhaps no better example than the growth and popularity of this event in just a few years. I am also honored and thankful for the support that the Dominican community has given me throughout the years," said Congressman Serrano.

Congressman Serrano kicking off Dominicans on the Hill Day. (2.6.20)

Congressman Serrano Speaks Out on President Trump’s Budget Proposal for FY2021
Congressman Serrano, Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, responded to President Trump’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021):

“Once again the Trump Administration has released a budget packed with deep cuts to critical programs that millions of hard-working Americans rely on to access essential services and make ends meet. All working families should be outraged that the President is proposing to cut $1.6 trillion from health care programs, including Medicare; $24 billion from Social Security; and more than $170 billion from education programs.

“As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and representative of the Bronx, it is alarming to see this Administration propose further cuts or eliminates some of the government’s most important social and economic development programs, including cutting SNAP funding; eliminating the Community Development Block Grant; eliminating the HOME program, which helps low-income communities access affordable housing; and cutting funding for the Small Business Administration and the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Administration, both of which support entrepreneurship.

“As far as the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill specifically is concerned, I am particularly opposed to the President’s proposals to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation; the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing programs (COPS) and Community Trust Initiatives; as well as the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership program and Economic Development Administration grants. These last two programs are critical to revitalizing the manufacturing industry and spurring local economic development. Predictably, he is also proposing again cutting funding for the National Science Foundation, climate change research programs at NOAA and NASA, and educational programs at all of these agencies. I strongly oppose all of these proposed cuts.

“Once again President Trump wants to spend billions on a useless border wall that won’t fix our broken immigration system at the expense of programs that vitally important to most American families. Our national budget shows our priorities, and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee will fight to prevent these proposals from taking effect and instead will invest in the areas that need it the most: health care, education, the environment, scientific research, seniors and children, vulnerable communities, and economic development.”

Reps. Serrano, Soto, Ocasio-Cortez, and Mucarsel-Powell Called on Trump Administration to Restore Power to Residents in Puerto Rico

Rep. Serrano, Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) led a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor, urging the agency to use all available resources to help restore power to Puerto Rico after recent destructive earthquakes struck the island. Following January 7th’s earthquake, the Costa Sur power plant, which is one of the island’s largest plants, suffered extensive damage. As aftershocks risk further damage to the plant’s infrastructure, the island will need emergency generation of 500 MW for at least the rest of this year.

“This weekend, I saw firsthand the terrible toll these continuing earthquakes are taking upon hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans,” said Rep. Soto. “Countless of our fellow Americans are without power, and strong aftershocks, like the one I experienced on Saturday, have made restoration even more difficult for the island. It’s time for President Trump and his administration to put an end to their personal vendetta against Puerto Rico and use all available resources to help the island rebuild.”

"I am proud to join my colleagues today in calling on FEMA to use all resources necessary to restore power to Puerto Rico in the wake of recent earthquakes,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. “At every turn, the federal government has failed to adequately respond to natural disasters in Puerto Rico, leaving thousands without access to basic necessities. Vulnerable communities should not go without power any longer."

“The federal government must not abandon the people of Puerto Rico again. I urge FEMA to act quickly and do everything in its power the help the island. I also urge once again the Trump Administration to issue a major disaster declaration to help expedite their efforts,” said Rep. Serrano.

“We must do everything we can to help our fellow American citizens of Puerto Rico during these trying times,” said Rep. Mucarsel-Powell. “The continued earthquakes and aftershocks have left many without power. The federal government must ensure that Puerto Rico has all the necessary resources to respond and to begin recovery as soon as possible.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Jose Serrano,  Nydia Velázquez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell,  Tony Cárdenas, Sylvia R. Garcia,  Adriano Espaillat, Yvette D. Clarke, Linda T. Sánchez, Scott Peters, Ruben Gallego, Jan Schakowsky,  Joaquin Castro, Kathy Castor, Frank Pallone, Jr. and Albio Sires.

Click here for the full text of the letter.

Serrano Leads Letter Urging Trump Administration to Issue Major Disaster Declaration Following Earthquakes in Puerto Rico

Congressman Serrano led a bipartisan group of 56 colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to issue a major disaster declaration after two earthquakes struck Puerto Rico earlier this week. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez, will be asking the Administration to issue a major disaster declaration. This declaration would facilitate access to critical emergency assistance from the federal government, including hazard mitigation assistance, assistance for individuals, and aid for government agencies on the island.

“On January 6 and January 7, two earthquakes of 5.8 and 6.4 magnitude, respectively, struck Puerto Rico—the worst earthquakes to hit the island in more than a century.  While we do not have a full assessment of the amount of damages sustained, the damage appears to be quite significant. Several public facilities, including a school and a church, have collapsed, and numerous others have sustained serious structural damage and cannot be occupied safely.  In addition, dozens of homes have collapsed; while some public housing and condominiums face a similar danger.  This has left hundreds of people homeless, and thousands sleeping in parks, on sidewalks, or in their own vehicles.  Some hospitals and at least one senior citizen nursing home facility have had to evacuate their patients as a result of this natural disaster,” the members said in the letter.

“The people of Puerto Rico need robust assistance at this hour of great need and it is incumbent upon us to help in every manner possible.  We believe that granting a major disaster declaration for the island would help meet the needs of the Puerto Ricans affected by these earthquakes,” they added.

The letter was signed by:

Reps. Hoyer, González Colón, Meng, Espaillat, Grijalva, Murphy, Soto, Hastings, Rouda, Butterfield, Boyle, Ocasio-Cortez, Schakowsky, Pascrell, Jr., Norton, Velazquez, Young, Bacon, Gabbard, Morelle, Kaptur, Neal, B. Maloney, “Chuy” Garcia, Lieu, Shalala, Murcarsel-Powell, Wild, Clay, Suozzi, Max Rose, Welch, Al Green, DeGetter, Himes, Cisneros, Jr., Torres, Wasserman Shultz, Pocan, P. Maloney, Correa, R. Garcia, Wilson, DeLauro, Crist, Clark, Kennedy III, Wexton, Cartwright, Schneider, Aguilar, McGovern, Davis, Lowey, Sires, Nadler.

Click here for the full text of the letter. 

Serrano, Velázquez, Grijalva, Ocasio-Cortez Call for Greater Transparency and Oversight of Puerto Rico’s Tax Breaks for Wealthy Individuals and Businesses (Acts 20 and 22)

Rep. Serrano, Nydia M. Velázquez, Raúl M. Grijalva, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin urging the Treasury Department to conduct greater oversight over existing tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations that relocate to Puerto Rico, particularly Puerto Rico’s Acts 20 and 22.  These tax policies incentivize federal and state tax avoidance with little apparent benefit to Puerto Rico or the 50 States.

“The result is that combination of the Federal and territorial laws has enabled high-income individuals and profitable service businesses to avoid any Federal or territorial taxation on some income and to owe extremely low rates of tax on other income.  By ‘residing’ on the island for 183 days per year, these individuals now avoid both Federal and local taxes.  This results in tax benefits that individuals and businesses could not obtain anywhere else in the world.  In other words, Puerto Rico has become a tax haven from the Federal government,” the Members wrote.

“The territorial tax exemptions granted to those wishing to avoid Federal taxes stands in stark, unfavorable contrast with the treatment of long-time Puerto Ricans and most other individual and corporate residents of the territory. Most individuals and locally-owned corporations pay high rates of local tax,” they added in the letter.

“Acts 20 and 22 have turned Puerto Rico into a tax haven with little to no benefit for the vast majority of Puerto Ricans. The Department of the Treasury should conduct greater oversight over how these tax breaks are being implemented and their impact on federal, state, local, and territorial tax revenues.  Puerto Ricans need greater transparency and accountability regarding these choices,” said Congressman Serrano.

Click here for full text of the letter. 

In the Bronx

Congressman Serrano Announces $4.5 Million in Funding for Sharon Baptist Head Start

Congressman Serrano announced that Sharon Baptist Head Start has been awarded two grants totaling $4,421,778 in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. The two grants will help Sharon Baptist Head Start to expand their social services to families in the area.

“For years, Sharon Baptist Head Start has played an essential role in the Bronx. Without it, many of our families simply would not have access to the preschool education, childcare, and health services necessary to prepare their children for success in the classroom. At a time when childcare and access to quality health care is increasingly more expensive, their services are more important than ever. This funding will help ensure they can continue serving our community and reach more children in the Bronx," said Congressman Serrano.