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As Bloomberg unveils economic plan for Puerto Rico, de Blasio sends mental health professionals to island

The New York Daily News - 1/27/2020

Call it a tale of two mayors.

Mayor de Blasio and his predecessor Mike Bloomberg on Monday announced starkly different plans for Puerto Rico, which has been reeling from natural disasters and economic woes.

Bloomberg, who’s running in the Democratic presidential primary, unveiled a sweeping proposal to resolve Puerto Rico’s colossal debt, strengthen the social safety net there and protect the island from future natural disasters. He said making Puerto Rico a state would pave the way for all of this.

De Blasio said his administration was sending a different kind of aid -- mental health support -- to Puerto Rico.

“Until Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will continue to lack the tools and resources needed to build a stronger economy and recover from disasters -- and Congress will continue sending just enough money to put Band-Aids on problems, without actually fixing them,” Bloomberg wrote in a Monday op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel.

He called for “the same safety net funding to Puerto Rico as any other U.S. state” for programs including Medicaid, Social Security and tax credits. Bloomberg also promised to resolve the island’s debt crisis -- Puerto Rico is billions of dollars in debt, widely blamed on decades of corruption and poor management -- though he did not go into detail.

With New York City home to the largest number of Puerto Ricans living outside the island, de Blasio also tried to make disaster recovery a campaign issue during his failed presidential run.

Hizzoner released a plan to boost funding for Puerto Rico before he dropped out of the race, but has shied away from the topic since September.

The 6.4-magnitude quake that rocked Puerto Rico on Jan. 12 prompted New York leaders to send disaster personnel to the island.

The mayor also zeroed in on one of his passions, mental health, including two mental health professionals in the city’s initial response team.

On Monday, his administration announced an additional seven mental health pros are heading to the island.

“Thousands of families in Puerto Rico are suffering from severe trauma and stress, brought on by the hurricane, earthquake and ongoing tremors, and they need help to address the dislocation and distress,” First Lady Chirlane McCray said in a statement.

She’s been widely criticized for her role overseeing the ThriveNYC program, which has little to show for its $1 billion budget to provide mental health services to New Yorkers.

Monday’s announcement that she and Hizzoner are sending more mental health professionals to the island prompted eye rolls from city pols.

“I think it’s wonderful that the mayor is providing support to Puerto Rico,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx). “Having said that, ThriveNYC is far from New York City’s greatest export.”


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