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As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to Puerto Rico, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves visited the island from April 21-22. This visit represents the latest in a series of high-level U.S. government officials travelling to the island, focusing on supporting Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery and resilience — an important priority for President Biden.

While there, Deputy Secretary Graves met with the Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi in addition to a wide range of local leaders and stakeholders to discuss how the federal government and Puerto Rico can work together to advance a shared economic development agenda in partnership with the people of Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico and the over three million Americans living there are an essential piece of the diverse mosaic that makes up our nation and keeps our economy moving forward into the 21st century. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is providing unprecedented federal funds and technical assistance to the island, presenting a unique opportunity to maximize impact and support long-term, sustainable growth and development,” said Deputy Secretary Don Graves.

“I want to underscore how the support Puerto Rico is receiving from the Biden-Harris Administration has been fundamental to the island’s ongoing economic recovery. These impactful visits give us an opportunity to align our strategies and reinforce alliances that will bolster Puerto Rico’s growth for future generations to come. We look forward to continuing to work with this Administration to provide better opportunities and quality of life to the American citizens of Puerto Rico,” said governor Pierluisi.”

“We are excited to build on our Administration’s efforts since day one to support the recovery and economic revitalization of Puerto Rico. From rebuilding schools to providing needed financial relief to families on the island, we look forward to strengthening our relationship with the Government of Puerto Rico as we invest Federal resources in the long-term economic growth for the people of Puerto Rico,” said White House Director for Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chavez Rodriguez who along Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo joined Deputy Secretary Graves during the trip.

Together, they met with public and private groups to discuss challenges and recommendations for economic growth on the island. This included a Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) Coalition Conversation consisting of a tour and roundtable with the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) — a BBBRC Finalist. The Commerce Department will ultimately award 20-30 regional coalitions between $25 and $100 million to implement 3-8 projects that support an industry sector.

“Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, EDA’s programs are helping this beautiful island community to build back better from the pandemic while enhancing U.S. competitiveness on the global stage and addressing some of our country’s biggest challenges here at home,” Deputy Secretary Graves continued. “The groundbreaking Build Back Better Regional Challenge, the marque of EDA’s ARP programs, strives to build on this momentum through close cooperation with our regional partners in order to expand and scale new industry sectors and transform local economies across the nation.”

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is helping to drive place-based, cluster oriented, transformational economic development here in Puerto Rico and across our nation,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo. “We are honored to visit and to hear how the coalition came together and could serve as a model for future collaborations.”

In addition to these key engagements, the Deputy Secretary also convened with public and private sector officials at the Center for a New Economy (CNE) think tank. Representatives from Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Chamber of Commerce and NGO leaders in education, energy, housing, and telecommunications explained their goals for digital equity and economic development on the island as a part of this meeting.

Deputy Secretary Graves remarked: “CNE’s research has provoked important discussions on key issues related to Puerto Rico and was among the first voices to point out the need to address the island’s deteriorating fiscal situation, restructure the island’s outdated energy utility, and find new and transformative economic strategies for Puerto Rico.”

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