Governor’s Politics Are Interfering With an Already Slow Recovery in Puerto Rico

first_imgGovernor’s Politics Are Interfering With an Already Slow Recovery in Puerto Rico FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享E&E News:The outlook for the restoration of Puerto Rico’s ravaged power grid took a backward step after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló hinted he would challenge the appointment of an emergency manager for grid recovery that was announced Wednesday by the bankrupt island’s federal oversight board.The Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board, which Congress established to oversee the U.S. territory’s fiscal crisis, had moved to wrest control of the halting grid recovery efforts away from the island’s utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which reports to Rosselló.But in a combative statement following that announcement Wednesday, Rosselló asserted that the management of Puerto Rico’s public companies “rests exclusively on democratically elected officials,” potentially setting the stage for a legal tussle over the utility’s future.The board picked its revitalization coordinator, Noel Zamot, a retired Air Force colonel and native Puerto Rican, to serve as “chief transformation officer” for emergency power restoration and future, undefined efforts to build a more modern, resilient power network on the island.If the governor takes the issue to court, it will set up conflict with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), enacted by Congress in June 2016.If the governor battles the federal oversight board’s choice for new leadership at PREPA, it will get no support from PREPA’s electricity workers’ union, the Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego (UTIER).The head of the union, Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, said in an email that federal overseers are legally able to unseat PREPA’s board and its CEO. “This action by [PROMESA] confirms UTIER’s denunciations of the bad management, corruption and incompetence of the management and of Ricardo Ramos during the emergency occasioned by Hurricane Maria,” Jaramillo wrote.Tom Sanzillo, finance director for the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis in Puerto Rico, a business and environmental advocacy group, said “I think the board’s authority to do this [appoint Zamot] is pretty explicit.”The PROMESA legislation gave the oversight board authority to oversee Puerto Rico’s “public agencies,” which would define PREPA.Rosselló needs to see the oversight board as his partner, not his opponent, Sanzillo added.“There are times when a governor has to draw a line” with Washington, said Sanzillo, former acting comptroller of the state of New York. “But this is a fight over something that screams out for oversight. He’s trying to defend a system that has produced one bad contract and one bad decision after another. He’s just wrong.”More: Tensions build over control of Puerto Rico utilitylast_img read more

Foundation revitalizes its loan assistance program

first_imgFoundation revitalizes its loan assistance program Mark D. Killian Managing EditorSaddled with heavy law school debts and a modest income as a lawyer for Legal Services of North Florida, Steve Shelton, a single parent of a nine-year-old boy, says every payday he looks at his check and then thinks of his son and wonders if he needs to leave legal aid behind for a more lucrative practice in order to do right by his family.“Every year about this time I do some serious soul searching,” Shelton said. “I wonder if I am doing the best I can by him if I continue to work for a charity, no matter how honorable the cause.”In an effort to keep lawyers like Shelton on the job, he and 21 other Florida legal aid lawyers recently received a grant from The Florida Bar Foundation’s revitalize loan repayment assistance program, which aims to relieve that educational debt burden to allow lawyers to take, and remain, in legal aid positions.While the slightly more than $3,000 Shelton received this year to help pay down his college loans won’t make him rich, “It is the difference between doing it in great pain and doing it with a clear conscience, as far as my son is concerned,” Shelton said.A recent nationwide survey conducted among third-year law students by Equal Justice Works – a national organization that supports public service-minded law students – found that 94 percent of law students finance their studies through school loans and 50 percent graduated this year with law school loan debts of $75,000 or more. For graduates following the standard 10-year repayment schedule, that can result in monthly payments of more than $900 for 10 years following graduation.Most entry level public interest positions in Florida pay between $25,000 and $32,500, and among those graduates who take such positions, many –– when faced with major life decisions such as starting a family –– are forced to leave after only one to two years of employment, according to Paul Doyle, director of the Foundation’s legal assistance grant programs. And that number has been climbing in recent years.A survey of Foundation grantees found that over the past five years, for example, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center lost 10 staff attorneys and eight lawyers have left Central Florida Legal Services. Over the past two years Gulfcoast Legal Services reports losing six lawyers and Legal Aid Service of Broward County lost four.“One of the issues we face as a profession is the debt load of the graduates and this has a profound effect on lawyers who may desire to devote their lives to the lofty goals of promoting and assisting and providing legal services to the less fortunate and needy people,” said Foundation President William Thompson, adding that the loan assistance program benefits not only the staff attorneys involved, but society as a whole by keeping talented legal aid lawyers on the job.Here is how the Foundation’s program — one of only eight in the nation — works:Once admitted as a participant, an attorney may remain in the program for up to five years, subject to continued eligible employment, salary limitations, bar admission, re-application, and local program endorsement.The staff attorney will receive an amount equal to 75 percent of annual debt payments up to $6,000 per year. For example, a staff attorney paying $7,500 or more a year on law school debt will receive the maximum annual benefit of $6,000.Doyle said the benefits will be in the form of one-year loans which will be forgiven annually at the end of each year provided the staff attorney remains employed on a full-time basis by an IOTA legal assistance to the poor grantee. The benefits are designed to be nontaxable under federal law by making the benefits a one-year loan forgivable at the end of the year and since the Foundation, not the participant’s employer, will be providing the benefits, Doyle said.To be eligible for the program, applicants must:• Be employed on a full-time basis by an IOTA funded legal assistance for the poor grantee.• Receive an annual salary of not more than $40,000 for a newly graduated staff attorney with $3,000 increments to the salary for each year of legal experience.• Admission to The Florida Bar by the end of the first year after having been selected as a participant.The Foundation selects participants through a process of program nominations and regional review committee recommendations. The programs will nominate applicants, utilizing program and applicant application forms designed by the Foundation. Each legal services region in Florida will form a loan-repayment assistance review committee to review all program nominations within the respective region and recommend (or not recommend) and prioritize such nominations to the Foundation. The Foundation makes the final selection decisions.Doyle said the program will cover only law school need-based government or private loans, or university or other private institutional loans. An annual debt payment loans of at least $1,800 is an eligibility requirement.The Foundation has budgeted $90,000 in start-up funds for the first year of the project and participating legal aid providers must kick in 20 percent of each recipient’s grant.Doyle said the Foundation plans to expand the program each year, subject to the availability of funds.“This is a great project for young lawyers who want to go into public service,” Doyle said. “If lawyers are interested in supporting this project, the Foundation would welcome contributions for that purpose.” Foundation revitalizes its loan assistance programcenter_img April 15, 2003 Managing Editor Regular Newslast_img read more