Day of Action PR 2015

Hundreds of Elected and Community Leaders Mobilize to Nation’s Capitol to Push Congress To Take Urgent Action On Puerto Rico.

Historic Mobilization of Leaders from 10 States and the Commonwealth Gather for National Day of Action on Puerto Rico.

(Washington, D.C.) December 2, 2015- In an historic mobilization to Washington, D.C., hundreds of Puerto Rican community, government, labor and faith leaders, and allies joined for a National Day of Action for Puerto Rico to urge Congress to pass legislation addressing the growing fiscal and humanitarian crisis on the island of Puerto Rico. Leaders from as far as Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois met with dozens of Members of Congress today. The National Day of Action comes on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, as well as a congressional briefing.

“Puerto Rico’s crisis is not simply financial or economic, but it is also humanitarian. 3.5 million American citizens are suffering from longstanding policies that originated in Washington and further inaction is simply unacceptable. There is no more room for delay. Congress must move forward with the Administration’s proposal to address this crisis,” stated Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-7).

In June 2015, Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro García Padilla declared the Commonwealth’s $72 billion debt “not payable,” with the island effectively running out of cash to keep the government operating. The situation is putting at risk essential services such as police and fire protection, medical services and social supports. The crisis has forced a second “Great Migration” much like after World War II, with more than 250,000 Puerto Ricans leaving the island since 2010.

"Como he sostenido en innumerables ocasiones, la raíz de la crisis fiscal y económica que enfrenta Puerto Rico radica en el status territorial indigno de la isla, que permite que el Congreso discrimine en contra de los 3.5 millones de ciudadanos americanos en Puerto Rico. Como indiqué ayer en la vista del Senado federal, de la misma forma que el liderato de Puerto Rico tiene que aceptar sus fracasos, el Congreso tiene que reconocer su propia responsabilidad,” said Pedro Pierluisi (PR Res Comm).

Puerto Rico has taken extraordinary measures to address the situation, including shuttering more than one hundred public schools, delaying people’s tax refunds, increasing the retirement age, and borrowing from the worker’s compensation fund. It has passed a draconian 2015 budget, which increased the sales tax from 7% to 11.5% and further reduced public investment by $674 million.

"Three and a half million of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are facing a dire economic crisis and a health care system on life support," said Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY). "We in Congress bear a special responsibility to come to Puerto Rico’s aid and that’s why this National Day of Action for Puerto Rico is so important. Congress must pass two pieces of legislation that I am sponsoring: one to provide Puerto Rico with the same treatment U.S. states currently enjoy under federal health programs and one to allow Puerto Rico access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections. Together these bills give Puerto Rico the tools they need to get back on their feet. Along with many of my friends and colleagues in New York and in the Senate, I stand with Puerto Rico, and I will do everything in my power to impress upon my colleagues the urgent need to pass these two bills as soon as humanly possible."

However, Puerto Rico cannot “cut and tax” its way out of the crisis because more cuts will force more migration, which will further erode the tax base and feed a “death spiral” of ever-decreasing tax revenue and ever-increasing debt.

“Congress and the Administration must step up because Puerto Ricans deserve more from the federal government than passing the buck and saying ‘you are on your own.’ Like it or not, Puerto Rico is ruled from Washington which means Washington has responsibilities and obligations to fulfill,” said Congressman Luis Gutierrez (IL-4)

“Millions of American citizens are suffering from healthcare disparities and a frightening economic crisis. Many are in danger of losing much of what they have. Our goal today is to deliver a clear message to my colleagues in Congress: It’s time to take action on Puerto Rico. We are not asking Congress to do anything they would not do for other parts of the U.S. We are only asking them to do what is only fair for millions of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. The President has laid out a good roadmap to address the crisis- now it is Congress’ turn to act. 5 million Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are watching.” said Congressman Jose Serrano (NY-15).

“The Puerto Rican people are caught in a death spiral of cuts to education, health care and public benefits. Coupled with emigration and tax hikes, these devastating cuts only serve to further cripple Puerto Rico,” said Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3). “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of our fellow American citizens. Congress must act boldly and swiftly to end this vicious cycle, starting by extending Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections to the island. In the absence of congressional action, the Federal Reserve has authority and obligation to act.”

“It is extremely important that we stand with Puerto Rico in restructuring its unsustainable debt burden. We also need to help them grow their economy so that Puerto Ricans can focus on the essential work of investing in a brighter economic future. The inequitable treatment by the federal government has constrained Puerto Rico’s ability to restructure its debt through an orderly court-supervised process. It is essential that Congress grants the government of Puerto Rico the legal authority to restructure the territory’s public debt,” said Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-13).

“The economic crisis in Puerto Rico will end only when Puerto Rico receives fair and equal treatment. Their government needs to enjoy the same economic protections, and the ability to deal with its hardships, as the rest of the nation,” said Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-9)

"The Puerto Rican diaspora is fighting for our brothers and sisters on the island. We are united in calling on Congress to act to alleviate the debt and health care crisis in Puerto Rico. Failure for the U.S. federal government to effectively act to help Puerto Rico manage its own affairs will result in an economic calamity that will be unprecedented and will hurt more than 3.5 million U.S. citizens. We won't let that happen. The time to act is now," said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

"On behalf of the nearly 9 million Puerto Rican people on the island and in the U.S. mainland, we mobilize today to declare one simple fact: Puerto Rico is in the grips of an unprecedented fiscal crisis that requires immediate federal action. Congress has the social, moral and economic imperative to provide Puerto Rico the tools it needs to stabilize its economy and protect the livelihood of millions of American citizens living on the island. The failure to act will not only have devastating repercussions for Puerto Rico, it will deeply affect countless communities, towns and cities statewide for generations to come. Simply put, inaction is not an option," stated José Calderón, President, Hispanic Federation

"32BJ members, thousands of whom are Puerto Rican, demand that Congress and the White House act now to help the millions on the island and the tens of thousands who have been forced to leave their homes," said Jaime Contreras, Vice President for 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service workers union in the country, with more than 145,000 members in 11 states. "This powerful voting bloc will remember in November, those who came to the aid of Puerto Rican families in this time of crisis and those who turned their backs."

“Our Constitution vests complete authority to Congress over unincorporated territories of the country and this includes Puerto Rico – a colony in everything but name. Congress must now act to ensure the well-being of millions of U.S. citizens who reside there. Puerto Rico is too big to fail and Congress must heed this call,” said Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

"Our faiths call us to love our neighbors and the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico are our neighbors. Their crisis is our crisis. The hardest thing to find in Puerto Rico right now is a suitcase, because too many people are leaving in search of work. This humanitarian crisis is separating families and dividing communities. We pray that Congress acts," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee USA.

"This is an extremely complicated fiscal issue but the consequences of it are not: Puerto Rico is facing an enormous humanitarian crisis that is already hurting millions of families and children,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO, NCLR.

The National Day of Action Leaders were clear in their statements that the Federal Government needs to take strong, substantive and constructive action now to stabilize Puerto Rico and protect the current and future livelihood of millions of American citizens living on the island. At a minimum, Congress needs to work with the Obama Administration to pass the following reforms:

  • Bankruptcy and Debt Restructuring Protections: Pass legislation granting Puerto Rico the right to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy, including expanded debt restructuring powers for all public services in order to renegotiate the debt and establish a fair repayment plan.
  • Health Care Equity: Bolster Puerto Rico’s healthcare safety net by approving the Health and Human Services Administration’s recommendation to eliminate the annual Medicaid/Mi Salud funding cap on Puerto Rico in favor of funding based on FMAP per-capita income.
  • Tax Reform: Institute tax policies that foster economically-diverse and living-wage job creation. Support local government implementation of an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and an expanded Child Tax Credit that rewards work and supplements earnings to low-income workers in Puerto Rico.

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