Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg released an economic recovery plan for Puerto Rico Monday that would allow the U.S. territory to officially become a state.
The former Mayor of New York City officially endorsed statehood, taking the issue further than some of his Democratic opponents.
“For decades, Puerto Ricans and their interests have been ignored by Washington,” Bloomberg said. “And there’s a simple reason why: They don’t have a vote in Congress. And so politicians don’t have to care how they feel.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, endorsed the plan.
“It’s essential for Americans in Puerto Rico to know that their votes will be taken seriously,” Soto said. “It’s key that the next President will act and support statehood.”
Bloomberg said statehood was essential in building political strength for the island.
“There’s a clear solution to this challenge that a majority of Puerto Ricans support. Most presidential candidates for president have been too afraid to back it. Not me. I’ll state it clearly: I support statehood for Puerto Rico. And as President, I will work to pass a bill making it a reality, subject to approval by the people of Puerto Rico – who will make the ultimate decision.”
The island commonwealth over the past few years has taken the brunt of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and suffered a 6.4-magnitude earthquake this year. In the meantime, the nation’s former Governor , Ricardo Rosello, resigned in a massive scandal.
Congress has declined to back statehood amid concerns about debt, but Bloomberg said resolving those budget issued will be necessary for the territory’s future, and statehood would be part of the solution.
Doing so would allow faster transfers of rebuilding and disaster response funding.
Bloomberg’s plan also calls for an overhaul of the island’s electric grid, including a shift to 100% renewable energy.
A shift to statehood will make citizens eligible for Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits.
As Mayor of a city with a major Puerto Rican population, Bloomberg visited the nation many times and worked with diaspora leaders in the U.S.
Of course, Bloomberg contrasted his relationship with Puerto Rico to that of President Donald Trump, who has regularly derided the island in tweets while cutting Medicaid funding there in half. Trump also infamously traveled to the island after Hurricane Maria and was video taped tossing rolls of paper towels at displaced residents, a move some Trump critics saw as insensitive.
U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg support Puerto Ricans being able to determine themselves whether to become an official U.S. state while former Vice President Joe Biden has not taken a stance on the issue.