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Puerto Rico gives Christmas bonuses after asking for - $94 billion in hurricane relief.

Posted: Dec 4th, 2017 - 3:58 am

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello last month asked federal taxpayers to shell out $94 billion to pay for the territory’s recovery from Hurricane Maria — then turned around and paid out about $100 million in Christmas bonuses to government employees on the island.

The governor’s aides say the bonuses were part of a long-standing tradition and were included in the budget approved over the summer.

But that budget came well before Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, leaving much of the territory in ruin and the government begging for federal assistance.

The island’s financial oversight board, created by Congress as part of a deal to bail the government out of a potential debt default last year, had urged the governor not to make the payments, saying the hurricanes should have forced a rethink of the budget. The payments also could dent Mr. Rossello’s efforts to get Capitol Hill to pony up for the recovery.

“Puerto Rico has demonstrated time and time again that its government is incapable of responsibly handling its finances. This is yet another such instance,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican and a member of the House committee with oversight on Puerto Rico.

The bonuses have been controversial since Puerto Rico’s debt struggles began, with the payments in 2015 and 2016 also drawing scrutiny. The 2015 payment was about $120 million, while this year’s payment was $113 million, the government told Bloomberg News.



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