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Our Fight for Puerto Rico Continues

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) held a joint forum on Tuesday, May 2nd on Puerto Rico’s fiscal and humanitarian crisis. The forum, Puerto Rico’s Ongoing Financial and Humanitarian Crisis: Economy, Debt-Restructuring, and Options for Recovery, took place the day after an automatic stay on creditor lawsuits against Puerto Rico expired.

Members of Congress heard from leaders in the social service and organized labor sectors about the significant social impact of the island’s current economic crisis. Representatives of SEIU, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO explained the consequences of austerity cuts and how it could cripple the island’s economy and lead to record level of unemployment.

The urgency of the situation was heightened by the expiration of the stay that protected the island’s government from a slew of creditor lawsuits. As a number of speakers pointed out, the predatory nature of so-called “vulture” funds could produce an avalanche of lawsuits that would turn Puerto Rico’s recession into a depression. In fact, a 2015 Committee report explains how certain hedge funds are attempting to capitalize on the island’s financial difficulties at the expense of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

Hispanic Federation Senior Vice President, Frankie Miranda testified at the forum. Miranda challenged Congress to partner with the Puerto Rican government to address the structural issues that hobbled the island in the past and threaten to undermine its recovery, including the lack of equal federal funding for health care.

“The U.S. Congress is responsible, in part, for Puerto Rico’s current crisis,” Miranda said. “Congress can’t act as if these problems were created solely by Puerto Ricans and then use that excuse to abandon the 3.5 million U.S. citizens who live on the island. If Congress doesn’t act on issues like health care financing parity, the island will enter a long and steep decline from which it will take decades to emerge. That is unacceptable to Puerto Ricans on the island and those on the mainland watching their families suffer.”

Among the Puerto Rican Congressional leaders who also attended the forum were, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Congressman Darren Soto (D-Fla.), and Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.).