SAN JUAN – En respuesta a la crisis actual de COVID-19, 80 organizaciones de Puerto Rico se unieron el lunes para exigir al Congreso de los Estados Unidos redirija a la Junta de Control Fiscal (JCF) a permitir que el Gobierno de Puerto Rico utilice más de 9 mil millones de dólares en fondos destinados al pago de deudas para apoyar a las familias puertorriqueñas en este momento de crisis.
Los firmantes de la carta emitida instan a los congresistas ordenar a la Junta que se usen los 9 mil millones de dólares en recursos para que se garanticen pruebas gratuitas y servicios de salud; instituir una moratoria sobre desalojos, ejecuciones hipotecarias y cierres de servicios públicos; asegurarse de que todos tengan acceso a comida; proporcionar a los estudiantes las herramientas necesarias para continuar su educación desde casa y; aumentar las inversiones significativas de fuentes de energía limpias, locales.
Dentro de las organizaciones que han firmado la carta están el Center For Popular Democracy, VAMOS4PR, SEIU, SPT, Power 4 Puerto Rico, Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, Make the Road New York, CASA, Taller Salud, Colectiva Feminista en Construcción y Construyamos Otro Acuerdo entre otras.
A continuación, el contenido de la carta:
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.
Apartado 7253 Ponce, P.R. 00732
Urbanización Industrial Sabanetas, Calle A Edificio 22 Ponce, Puerto Rico