Puerto Rico is going through a labor shortage that could represent an opportunity for the inclusion of foreign labor force, with the Dominican Republic being among the first options to continue the reconstruction work on the island after the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This approach was made by the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico to the Federal Government of the United States, Jennifer González, to President Luis Abinader, during a visit made by the legislator in the country, in which she exhausted an extensive work agenda with the aim of strengthening bilateral relations between the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean island.
In the meeting, organized by the leader of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) and past superintendent of Banks, Alberto Atallah, Gonzalez expressed his interest in reintroducing to the country the possibility of hiring Dominican labor through a special permit with the H2-B visa, which stopped being processed in the country in 2017 and which allowed the recruitment of non-agricultural seasonal workers.
“(González) understands that it is prudent and important to retake this program to make it possible for Dominicans to access this modality of temporary employees and be part of the reconstruction (of Puerto Rico)”, Atallah explained during a visit to elDinero newspaper, in which he detailed the details discussed in the meetings held by the US official with Dominican authorities and businessmen during her stay last July 7 and 8.
The economist explained that the U.S. Federal Government has allocated substantial resources to be invested in construction, communications, technology, among other areas affected by the natural disasters, but that Puerto Rico is in need of employees to be able to continue the pending work and take advantage of the funds which, if not used, will be withdrawn.
In the event that the Federal Government accepts the congresswoman’s request for the Dominican Republic to be one of the countries eligible for the H 2-B visa, Dominicans will be able to “get a temporary job that will allow them, in some way, to improve their quality of life” while at the same time contribute to the economic reactivation of the neighboring island.
According to the transparency portal of the Central Puerto Rico Recovery Office (COR3), the U.S. Congress has allocated US$64.937 million for the island’s comprehensive economic recovery, including efforts to mitigate the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, of which 32%, equivalent to US$20.657 million, has been disbursed for these purposes.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, category 5 and 4 on the Ritcher scale, respectively, impacted the entire Puerto Rican territory after their passage in September 2017, with winds of 135 miles per hour that caused the loss of thousands of lives, weakened the infrastructure of 1,067,618 homes and caused multiple roads to collapse, aggravating electricity services, drinking water and access to healthcare.
In addition to meeting with President Luis Abinader, the second highest authority of Puerto Rico held meetings with authorities representing the economic and social sectors that are strategic for the United States and Puerto Rico as the first and fourth largest trading partners of the Dominican Republic, respectively.
Jennifer González met with the First Lady, Raquel Arbaje and the Vice President, Raquel Peña, the Governor of the Central Bank, Héctor Valdez Albizu, the Director General of Customs, Eduardo Sánchez Lovatón, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Víctor Bisonó and the Minister of Tourism, David Collado, to whom she highlighted the efforts made in each of their roles to mitigate the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the economy and health, in addition to updating them on the work agenda of these public entities.
With regard to the business sector, he met with an executive committee of the National Council of Private Enterprise (Conep), with whom he sought to explore opportunities for collaboration to encourage trade and investment between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
U.S. will support Haiti
Regarding Haiti, whose deep political crisis has a direct consequence on the Dominican economy and the migratory relations between both nations, the Puerto Rico commissioner ratified the interest of the United States “in assuming with greater certainty the support to the country in institutional and sanitary matters”.
The assassination of Jovenel Moise on July 7 has aggravated the political chaos experienced by the Haitian people who, without a congress and now without a president, are plunged into a state of siege under which they are trying to clarify the circumstances that led to the assassination of the first president and which has awakened an intense debate in the country.