Jobs and People are Returning to Puerto Rico Thanks to Over $140 billion in Federal Obligations Since President Biden and Vice President Harris Took Office

Today, during the Vice President’s visit to Puerto Rico, she will emphasize the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting the island’s recovery and renewal. Vice President Harris will highlight how Puerto Rico’s economic turnaround has begun thanks to more than $140 billion in Federal obligations for the island supported by unprecedented whole-of-government partnerships through the Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue.[1]

Since President Biden and Vice President Harris took office, Puerto Rico has added more than 100,000 new jobs. [2] This includes construction employment, which is up by close to 30 percent. [3] Unemployment is now at a historic low of under six percent, [4] and labor force participation is growing to the highest level in more than a decade. [5] And in 2023, Puerto Rico had its first year of positive net migration since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. [6]

The beginning of Puerto Rico’s economic turnaround has come as the Biden-Harris Administration launched the Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue in December 2022, an unprecedented whole of government approach across 17 Departments that was organized in close collaboration with the Government of Puerto Rico. It is being led by Commerce’s Deputy Secretary Graves, the Puerto Rico Economic Recovery Coordinator. President Biden and Vice President Harris have long been reliable champions for Puerto Rico as they have fought for the health, wellbeing, and economic success of those who call the island home.

Infrastructure Investments are Creating Jobs and Rebuilding Communities in Puerto Rico

Construction employment has one of the fastest growth rates of any sector of the Puerto Rico economy – with 7,800 more jobs since January 2021.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials have collaborated with Puerto Rico government officials to facilitate an efficient deployment of reconstruction funds. FEMA adopted a new island-wide method (the Island-Wide Benefit Cost Analysis) to provide a holistic approach to accelerate the completion of Hurricane Maria related resilience projects. 

As of March 2024, Puerto Rico’s Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resiliency (COR3) reports that there are 2,725 projects with FEMA funding currently in the construction phase totaling $1.39 billion in project costs. Another 1,769 projects with a total projected cost of $814.3 million are in the procurement pipeline for construction. [7]

These investments are starting to rebuild communities.

  • In San Juan, at Mirador Las Casas, new construction on the 294-unit apartment complex started in April 2023 and is funded by an investment of $96.2 million from a combination of permanent tax-exempt bonds, 4% Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits generating $26 million in equity and deferred developer fees, plus $66.9 million from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.
  • In Carolina, CDBG-DR funds are being used for the renovation and remodeling of Sánchez Osorio and Galicia avenues.  The $43.4 million project will include improvements to the existing storm water system and replacing the lighting system.  The project which launched in January 2023 is creating 520 direct jobs according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, Cataño lost more than 600 of its homes.  With a $44.1 million investment – including $29.2 million in CDBG-DR funds – the Bahia Apartments are rising in Cataño.  The new apartments will provide more than 100 new affordable housing units in the municipio of just over 20,000 residents.
  • Under the CDBG-DR funded R3 Program, Puerto Rico’s Department of Housing is providing assistance to eligible homeowners to repair damaged homes or rebuild substantially damaged homes in non-hazardous areas. Priority is provided to “blue roof” homes, elderly applicants, disabled applicants and low to moderate income applicants.  As of March 2024, more than 6,100 homes have been repaired or reconstructed.

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that Vice President Harris helped make possible with her tie-breaking vote in the Senate, more than $2.1 billion in projects have been announced. This includes $754.3 million in announced transportation projects.[8]  With support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority is managing the expansion of Rafael Hernández International Airport and the PR-10 and PR-2 highways.  Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation will receive $51.4 million to install fast EV charging ports at 10 locations along a major roadway designated as an Alternative Fuel Corridor. All charging stations will be within one mile of highway exits and less than 30 miles from each other.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to award and implement key construction contracts for four major projects:

  • San Juan Harbor Improvements includes the widening and deepening of the inner San Juan Harbor channels to improve efficiency of cruise ships, container vessels, and petroleum tanker operations. This project also federalized an additional 1000-ft of the San Antonio channel making it more competitive for Oasis class cruise ships. Overall, this project sustains vital tourism, strengthens supply chains, and increases energy resilience on the island.
  • Caño Martin Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project will re-establish the tidal connection between the San Jose Lagoon and San Juan Bay. The restoration project is critical for the revitalization of eight impoverished communities with a population of over 26,000 residents settled along the Martín Peña tidal channel.
  • Rio Puerto Nuevo Flood Control Project will reduce the impact of flooding to over 150,000 residents and businesses in the metropolitan San Juan basin.
  • Rio de La Plata Flood Control Project will provide flood reduction benefits to the municipalities of Dorado and Toa Baja.

Clean Energy, Broadband and Resilience Investments Position Puerto Rico for Sustainable Growth

  • Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Granholm has traveled to Puerto Rico to convene stakeholders in support of Puerto Rico’s energy grid modernization; established an interagency Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team to accelerate the rebuilding of and upgrades to the island’s electrical infrastructure; and commissioned a 2-year study (PR-100) – funded by FEMA – analyzing stakeholder driven pathways to Puerto Rico’s clean energy future. 
  • In December 2022, President Biden signed the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act into law, which included $1 billion for the establishment of the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (“PR-ERF”) to drive key investments in renewable and resilient energy infrastructure in Puerto Rico.  In November 2023, companies and non-profits were selected by DOE to negotiate awards of up to $440 million of the PR-ERF for the installation of solar systems in low-income houses across the island. 
  • In April 2023, DOE’s Loan Programs Office announced a conditional commitment to a private operator to make distributed energy resources including rooftop solar, battery storage, and virtual power plant-ready software available to more American homeowners.  The project is expected to prioritize providing up to 20% of installed systems through its loans to homeowners in Puerto Rico.
  • With Inflation Reduction Act funds, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has helped small businesses and farmers to obtain renewable energy systems and energy-efficient equipment, which enable them to have power consistently and at lower costs.
  • Close to $1 billion in funding from National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s BEAD ProgramThe American Rescue Plan (ARP) ’s Capital Projects Fund, and the Federal Communications Commission’s Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund will support the Smart Island program vision of building a new submarine cable to ensure network resilience and enabling programs that create equitable access to the Internet, including rural communities. Under the Smart Island program, the goal is to provide connectivity for all residential, commercial and government structures in Puerto Rico, so that every resident of the island has access to high speed Internet through the right infrastructure.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invested $1.6 million across four municipalities in Puerto Rico (Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Corozal, and Las Piedras) under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support brownfield cleanup, the first step in redeveloping land to support climate change mitigation and leveraging the land for projects such as solar farms.
  • The Federal Transit Administration has awarded a total of $471 million in American Rescue Plan – which the Vice President helped make possible by casting the tie-breaking vote to advance the legislation in the Senate – and BIL funding to Puerto Rico since FY 2021 to support cleaner buses, train and ferry service. An additional $20 million has been awarded for the purchase of low and no emission buses.
  • The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommended $34.4 million in funding across eight projects partnering with non-government organizations s in Puerto Rico to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events, support coastal and marine research, improve safety in the marine and coastal environment, and ensure sustainable fisheries.

Workforce Investments Ensure Puerto Rico’s Long-Term Competitiveness

  • Through the American Rescue Plan’s Good Jobs Challenge, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $6.7 million in a partnership with UnidosUS and Puerto Rico’s One Stop Career Center  aimed at creating workforce development programs in the construction and aerospace industries. This innovative project was competitively selected as one of 32 winners out of more than 500 applicants.
  • As of the end of 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor, in coordination with the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce, has introduced 24 new registered apprenticeship programs, and registered approximately 770 new apprentices, providing practical training and skills for workers.
  • To help meet Puerto Rico’s need for a workforce to support reconstruction, the Government of Puerto Rico has discretion to use up to $225 million in BIL funds for workforce development. BIL provides that activities related to workforce development are funded at 100% federal share. Recent Federal Highway Administration guidance clarifies which federal-aid formula funds can be used by state departments of transportation and U.S. territories to support workforce development
  • In a joint effort between Education Secretary Cardona and Governor Pierluisi, the decentralization of the Puerto Rico Department of Education has begun. This significant transformation aims to make schools more responsive to the needs of school communities, potentially impacting workforce development by aligning education more closely with labor market requirements.  The first three decentralization pilot zones will take effect later in 2024.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established an MOU in March 2023 between the University of Puerto Rico and the PR Department of the Family, providing $12.5 million of Title IV-E funding for 5 years in support of hiring and training social workers, implementing retention strategies and mitigating high-caseloads. The first cohort of social work students began their studies in August 2023.

Economic Development Investments Promote Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • EDA designated the PRBio Tech Hub as one of 31 inaugural Tech Hubs in the U.S., a consortium led by the Puerto Rico Science and Technology and Research Trust that will advance the region as a global leader in biotechnology.  
  • The Department of Defense (DoD), in collaboration with the Government of Puerto Rico, invested close to $4 million to launch a LIFT satellite facility to enhance advanced manufacturing technology and talent development opportunities. LIFT is the DoD Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) for Advanced Materials, one of nine DoD MIIs and one of 17 national MIIs under the Manufacturing USA network.  In addition, the Navy announced an additional $1 million DoD investment in LIFT Puerto Rico for manufacturing ecosystem development.
  • DoD continues to provide funding and assistance to renovate the infrastructure of Roosevelt Roads and lay the ground work for space commerce, tourism, and commercial marine operations.
  • The American Rescue Plan’s State Small Business Credit Initiative is investing up to $109 million so that the PR Economic Development Bank can provide capital to small businesses such as Biosimilar who acquired specialized equipment to strengthen its production capacity while contributing to the pharmaceutical industry in Puerto Rico.   Additionally, the University of Sagrado Corazon received a Capital Readiness grant from Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency to prepare entrepreneurs to launch and scale businesses. The Small Business Administration conducted over 200 small business-focused events during 2023 and according to the Government of Puerto Rico, the Federal government granted over $500 million in contracts to Puerto Rico businesses in 2023.
  • USDA established the Rural Partners Network to help communities navigate and access federal resources, while supporting long-term economic stability on their own terms with initiatives in sustainable energy, entrepreneurship, housing and healthcare, among others. The network supports communities in the centraleastern and southwest regions of the island.

Investments Continue to Support Puerto Rico Families and Children and Reduce Poverty

  • President Biden and Vice President Harris have spent their careers fighting for the wellbeing of children and families. To support Puerto Rico’s families, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) broadened tax benefits at an historic scale by expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in Puerto Rico to all families with at least one child, permanently bringing CTC benefits into parity with the mainland. As a result, 225,00 families in Puerto Rico are now eligible for the credit—as opposed to just 20,000 families in 2019. A historic expansion in the American Rescue Plan and strong working partnership between the White House, the Government of Puerto Rico and countless community-based organizations also ensured that Puerto Rican families saw significant benefits from ARP’s expansion of the CTC in 2021, dramatically cutting child poverty. The average annual benefit was $4,700 per family in 2021, with more than $1.2 billion disbursed to families in Puerto Rico for 2021. The American Rescue Plan’s changes to the CTC for Puerto Rico will continue to cut child poverty in Puerto Rico – and ensure a fairer tax system – for years to come.
  • ARP also made historic investments in the Earned Income Tax Credit for Puerto Rico workers. It provided substantial funding to expand Puerto Rico’s version of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This investment will quadruple the EITC for Puerto Rican workers and narrow longstanding disparities in access to the EITC between Puerto Rico and the mainland. These two expansions of the CTC and EITC will continue to reduce child poverty in Puerto Rico by about 11% in future years, and the President continues to fight to restore the additional expansions that cut child poverty nearly in half in 2021.
  • And with many struggling to make ends meet, ARP provided a permanent, annual increase of over $463 million for its food assistance block grant going forward, in addition to nearly $1 billion in emergency food assistance for Puerto Rico to help them recover from the pandemic.
  • President Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation to transition Puerto Rico from the current capped NAP federal nutrition block grant, which is insufficient to meet the island’s needs, to the SNAP program used by other states. To prepare for a transition, the USDA arranged six in-person and virtual state exchange visits for Puerto Rico officials to learn about SNAP operations; contracted for translation of handbooks, guides, and relevant SNAP materials into Spanish; and supported Puerto Rico’s efforts to give NAP participants access to job training and support services similar to what is required under SNAP. USDA will continue to work closely with Puerto Rico officials to support a successful transition from NAP to SNAP once Congress opens up this pathway. 

The Biden-Harris Administration will continue its focus on reconstruction and efforts to advance the full and long-term economic recovery of Puerto Rico – with active engagement with residents, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, unions, academia and local elected officials. 


[1] Data is from

[2] Seasonally Adjusted Total Nonfarm Employment in Puerto Rico increased from 851.1 in January 2021 to 956.4 in January 2024 (employment in thousands).  Data for January 2024 is Preliminary.  Data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment database. 

[3] Seasonally Adjusted Total Construction Employment in Puerto Rico increased from 27.9 in January 2021 to 35.7 in January 2024 (employment in thousands). Data for January 2024 is Preliminary.  Data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment database.

[4] Unemployment Rate in Puerto Rico (PRUR) | FRED | St. Louis Fed (

[5] Labor force participation rate, total (% of total population ages 15+) (modeled ILO estimate) – Puerto Rico | Data ( and PRMEI_ENG.pdf

[6] U.S. Population Trends Return to Pre-Pandemic Norms (

[7] Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery Transparency Portal – COR3 (

[8] Data last updated on February 6, 2024 and accessed from

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