Letter requesting Congress direct the FOMB to release 9 billion dollars in reserve account for recovery CODIV-19 efforts in Puerto Rico

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to you as organizations in Puerto Rico and stateside that are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the island. Given Puerto Rico's crumbling healthcare infrastructure and aging population at greater risk of complications, the spread of this virus could result in an unprecedented human catastrophe. Congress should therefore direct the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to allow the Government of Puerto Rico to use the more than $9 billion in funds destined for debt payments to instead be used to support Puerto Rican families in this moment of crisis.

Congress, through the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), made the FOMB the trustee of the Government of Puerto Rico. Over the last three years, Puerto Rico has been hit by a series of natural disasters--hurricanes Maria and Irma, ongoing earthquakes, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.  These disasters have exacerbated an economic crisis, created by decades of budget cuts and neglect, that had left the island with $129 billion in debt and a crumbling infrastructure.

Over the last three years, the FOMB has forced brutal austerity measures that have further crippled health, educational, and other public infrastructures. These severe cuts created a budget surplus that has ballooned to a staggering $9 billion cash reserve as of February 28, 2020 -- the same size as Puerto Rico's entire operating budget in 2017 -- up from $1.8 billion in December 2018.

The federal government has failed to disburse billions of dollars allocated toward a just recovery to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Recent earthquakes have compounded Puerto Rico’s distress. Estimated damages reported by hardest-hit local governments on the island exceed $1.4 billion, and the power authority needs significant investment to rebuild one of its main power plants by this summer in order to stabilize service for millions.

Only two months after the earthquakes, with hundreds still living in tents in the south, the island faces yet another disaster.  Today, hundreds of thousands are in their homes, struggling to put food on the table for their families and not knowing when their next paycheck will come. To make matters worse, 20.7% of Puerto Rico’s population is over the age of 65, which means that any response that does not provide the necessary support to the island could result in thousands of deaths.

In accordance with §§ 201(b)(1)(B) and 201(b)(1)(J) of PROMESA, it is the responsibility of the FOMB to account for all government services and capital expenditures that must be provided in order to adequately respond to CODIV-19. This includes providing community driven investments in: (1) ensuring free testing and healthcare services; (2) instituting a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs; (3) making sure everyone has access to food; (4) providing school children with the tools necessary to continue their education from home and; (5) significant investments in clean, local, sustainable energy sources to stabilize service for millions.

The fiscal plan should be revised to reflect these expenditures instead of ever-increasing austerity measures. We must prioritize these critical investments in the public health and safety of Puerto Ricans over debt repayments. Continuing to prioritize austerity measures for the sake of debt repayment will undoubtedly result in preventable deaths. Upon certification of a revised fiscal plan, these funds must be made readily available through any necessary legal and budgetary actions.

For all of these reasons, we believe that Congress should direct the Fiscal Management Oversight Board to allow the Government of Puerto Rico to use more than $9 billion in funds destined for debt payments to be used to support Puerto Rican families in this moment of crisis. Not doing so could spell disaster for hundreds of thousands.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Sincerely,

  1. 32BJ SEIU

  2. Action NC

  3. Alianza Por Puerto Rico - Massachusetts 

  4. Alianza Americas

  5. Alianza for Progress

  6. Asociación Nacional de Escuelas de Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico

  7. Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios (APPU)

  8. Ayuda Legal

  9. Boricuas de Corazón Inc 

  10. Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora

  11. Borisquad

  12. Cancel the Debt

  13. CASA

  14. Central American Resource Center

  15. Centro Para Una Nueva Gobernanza

  16. Central State Latino Caucus

  17. Center for Popular Democracy

  18. Chelsea Rising/ LEAPS

  19. Chicago Puerto Rican Agenda

  20. Churches United For Fair Housing

  21. Code Pink 

  22. Construyamos Otro Acuerdo

  23. Colectiva Feminista en Construcción

  24. Colectivo Ilé

  25. Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico

  26. Concilio de Iglesias de Puerto Rico (CIPR)

  27. Defend Puerto Rico

  28. Democratic Socialist of America

  29. Democratic Socialist of America Palm Beach County

  30. Diáspora en Acción

  31. Diaspora en Resistencia

  32. DSA Palm Beach County

  33. DSA Boricua Socialist Diaspora Caucus

  34. Hedge Clippers

  35. Instituto para el Desarrollo de las Comunidades y SIEMPREVIVAS.

  36. El Puente-ELAC

  37. Espacios Abiertos

  38. Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico

  39. Fideicomiso para el Desarrollo de Río Piedras

  40. Frente Ciudadano para la Auditoría de la Deuda

  41. JUNTE GENTE

  42. La Clara

  43. LatinoJustice PRLDEF

  44. Make the Road CT

  45. Make the Road NJ

  46. Make the Road NV

  47. Make the Road NY

  48. Make the Road PA

  49. Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

  50. Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana

  51. Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres

  52. Mujeres de Islas

  53. National Boricua Human Rights Network (NBHRN)

  54. National Puerto Rican Agenda

  55. New York Communities for Change

  56. Northwest Boricua Resistance

  57. Organize Florida & Pa'lante por Mas

  58. Organización Puertorriqueña de la Mujer Trabajadora (OPMT)

  59. Our Revolution Puerto Rico

  60. Philly Boricuas

  61. Philadelphia Chapter of the National Puerto Rican Agenda

  62. Power 4 Puerto Rico

  63. Proyecto Matria

  64. Public Accountability Initiative

  65. Puerto Ricans In Action

  66. Puerto Rico Me Llama

  67. QLatinx

  68. Sembrando Sentido

  69. SEIU

  70. SEIU Local 1

  71. SPT SEIU Local 1996

  72. Strong Economy For All Coalition

  73. Taller Salud

  74. Taller Puertorriqueño 

  75. UNETE

  76. Urbe Apie

  77. UTIER

  78. VAMOS y VAMOS en la Diáspora

  79. Vamos4PR 

  80. Women’s March Florida

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