In an auditorium full of diverse individuals discussing Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, Miguel Soto Class expressed his enthusiasm that “this event shows how involved other people are, and we can’t imagine that it is all for nothing.” On February 15th, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Latino/a Law Students Association held a panel discussion on Puerto Rico’s current economic crisis. Miguel Soto Class, the Executive Director and founder of the Center for a New Economy (CNE) and UDC law student Margarita Valera began the discussion about the root of the crisis. According to Mr. Soto, for the past ten years Puerto Rico has had a contracting economy that caused residents to migrate to neighboring states. The government has borrowed to finance a structural deficit.
In 2016, Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) which put in place an oversight board to restructure the debt. Mr. Soto stressed that apart from restructuring the debt, Puerto Rico is in dire need of stimulating its economy. CNE, a privately financed non-governmental think tank, encouraged the federal government to create a Puerto Rico growth commission last summer. Since the federal government didn’t create the commission, CNE decided to make their own. They are assembling a team of economists to find solutions to Puerto Rico’s crisis. The commission will meet in April and will analyze Puerto Rico's economic condition and brainstorm ways for the island to grow sustainably. They hope to establish a long-term approach that will include a "country dialogue" consisting of the government, NGOs, and unions, as well as economists.
Puerto Rico is in a fragile state: the health care system is in crisis due to hospitals closing and professionals migrating out of the country. Mr. Soto believes that the situation in Puerto Rico is at “a slow boil” and affecting everyone on the island. The crisis has caused many families to lose their homes and their jobs, and forced many to flee the island. Mr. Soto expressed his concerns but said that he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm and that Puerto Rico will find a window of opportunity through decisive action.
Since 2015, Jubilee USA has been working with Puerto Rico’s religious leaders, government, creditors and with Congress, Treasury and the White House to find solutions to the crisis. Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA’s executive director, addressed the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico in November to propose ways to restructure the debt and end the crisis. In a February call to action, Jubilee urged Congress to enact bipartisan recommendations to relieve Puerto Rico’s economic crisis. These recommendations include giving Puerto Rico equal treatment to the US mainland with Medicaid and Medicare funding and extending the federal child tax credit to Puerto Rico to reduce the crushing child poverty rate on the island.
Congress must recognize the severity of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis and work collaboratively towards economic sustainability and stability on the island. CNE’s initiative to create a growth commission plays an important role in analyzing Puerto Rico’s economic crisis as well as providing sustainable solutions. Jubilee USA will continue working with faith leaders on the island to advocate for the reforms needed to alleviate the crisis and improve the lives of the 3.5 million American citizens who live in Puerto Rico.