By Greg Williams
"As religious leaders in Puerto Rico, we urge you to act on behalf of the 3.4 million American citizens living on the island," wrote two prominent ministers to Congress about policies to help the debt-troubled island. Archbishop Roberto González Nieves and Bible Society leader Reverend Heriberto Martínez-Rivera want Congress to adopt health care and child tax benefit recommendations proposed by the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico.
"Our people are suffering," the religious leaders write in a letter sent to Congress. "Nearly 60% of our children live in poverty and thousands of our brothers and sisters flee to the US mainland each year in search of work, tearing apart families and communities."
The Congressional task force estimates that extending the Child Tax Credit would generate roughly $3 billion for the island's economy. Congress created this task force as part of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, which passed to address the financial crisis last June.
"I'm grateful that Congressional leadership supports these recommendations," stated Jubilee USA director Eric LeCompte, who advises the religious leaders on Puerto Rico's debt crisis. LeCompte testified to Congress and the oversight board on solving the crisis. "Congress needs to follow through on its part to resolve the crisis."
On March 13th, the Financial Oversight and Management Board of Puerto Rico, also created by PROMESA, approved the latest fiscal plan presented by the island's Governor. The approved plan enables Puerto Rico to pursue debt restructuring negotiations with the island's creditors. The oversight board predicts that Puerto Rico must make deep debt cuts as high as 80% to resolve the crisis. A halt on debt lawsuits against Puerto Rico ends in May.
"In your important work in addressing the island's financial and developing humanitarian crisis, we pray you will weigh any decision that you make in light of how it impacts our children and the children of future generations," González and Martínez write in their letter to Congress. "These children played no role in creating this crisis but stand to lose the most if we do not resolve it. "
Read the full letter the religious leaders wrote to Congress
Read the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico's recommendations
Read more about the task force