Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the Congressional Delegates from American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have succeeded in making sure that the Territories’ needs are addressed and provided for in President Obama’s jobs bill. The President released his bill late this afternoon which included the requests made by the Congressional Delegates via contact with the White House on Friday and by follow-up letter this morning. The bill will now make its way to the House and Senate for consideration.
“I want to commend my colleagues, especially Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi for his leadership,” Faleomavaega said. “While President Obama has always been quick to support the Territories and recognize our contributions to the defense of this great nation, it is also helpful to have some 4 million citizens of Puerto Rico stand with American Samoa, Guam, CNMI, and the U.S. Virgin Islands during critical times like this.”
“I appreciate the work of my colleagues from Guam, CNMI, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, too. Since the time I have been in Congress, we have always presented a united front when calling upon various Administrations to treat us like all other Americans. In this instance, we have once more been successful in our efforts and, for this reason, I am including the full text of our letter to President Obama.”
The full text of the letter signed by Faleomavaega, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan of CNMI, and Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands and which was copied to the Honorable Cecilia Munoz, Co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, and to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tony Babauta, is included below:
Dear Mr. President:
As representatives of the 4.5 million Americans living in the five U.S. territories, we write to commend you on the proposed American Jobs Act, your Administration’s multi-faceted plan to create jobs and strengthen the national economy. We understand that you will be transmitting draft legislation to Congress in the coming days, and we respectfully ask you to ensure that our constituents are fully and fairly included in all major components of that legislation.
We are concerned that at least two important pillars of your proposal will not benefit our constituents unless provision is made for their inclusion. The first provision is a tax credit for companies that hire workers who have been seeking employment for at least six months. The second provision is a tax credit for firms that hire veterans, with a larger credit being provided in the case of disabled veterans.
To meaningfully include residents of the territories in these proposals, a “cover-over” or “hold-harmless” provision is required, whereby the territorial government would offer the credits to firms through its local tax system and obtain reimbursement from the U.S. Treasury for the lost revenue. There is recent precedent for our request, namely the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (P.L. 111-147). Section 102 of the HIRE Act, enacted in March 2010, enabled an employer to take a $1,000 income tax credit for every new employee hired and retained for at least 52 weeks. With your strong support, the territories were included in this provision through a cover-over mechanism. The territories were also included in the Making Work Pay and American Opportunity tax credits established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—again through a cover-over mechanism, and again with the Administration’s support.
Inclusion of the territories in these two pillars of your proposal would be the principled course of action. As you know, unemployment rates in the territories are among the highest of all U.S. jurisdictions. Moreover, men and women from the territories serve and sacrifice in great numbers in the U.S. armed forces, and our veterans have the same needs as their counterparts in the 50 states.
The Congressional Delegates concluded their letter by stating, “We thank you for your attention to this important matter.”