Statement on the Senate Vote on PROMESA

June 29, 2016

Today, the US Senate voted to pass the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act” (PROMESA), which contains three provisions that are necessary to begin to stabilize and grow Puerto Rico’s economy: the authority to restructure all of the island’s $72 billion debt, the ability to fully audit this debt and potentially eliminate illegally- transacted portions, and the granting of a stay on any litigation pertaining to missed debt payments.

Ever since Governor Padilla announced the island could not pay back the enormous debt, Hispanic Federation has urged Washington to take action, while working to improve this legislation at every step of the process. Together with many allied organizations and members of Congress, including Representatives Velázquez, Serrano and Grijalva, we have worked to remove or amend some of the egregious provisions of PROMESA, which will ensure the protection of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, preserve the National Environmental Policy Act for the Commonwealth, and limit the impact of the federal financial oversight and management board.

Unfortunately, PROMESA is still very much a flawed bill that simultaneously includes wrongheaded provisions to potentially lower the minimum wage for younger workers and limit overtime payments, while failing to fully protect the pensions of retirees, address healthcare inequities, or institute progressive economic reforms and investments.

However, given the state of politics in Congress and the looming $2 billion debt payment the island has to make on July 1st, time has run out for Puerto Rico and the economic consequences of further default are too serious to ignore.

As President Obama is expected to sign this important legislation, Hispanic Federation pledges to work with government and community partners to ensure this law is implemented in a fashion that best supports the people of Puerto Rico and the island’s economic recovery.

In the immediate future, we are deeply concerned by the composition of the newly-created federal oversight board. We demand that both Congress and the White House ensure that a majority of the board’s members are expert residents of Puerto Rico. We cannot underscore enough the importance of guaranteeing that the board not compromise Puerto Rico’s already limited autonomy and that its members represent and safeguard the best interest of the Puerto Rican people.

Moreover, Washington must acknowledge that PROMESA and the all-important debt restructuring powers are just a first step for the beleaguered island. Moving forward, Congress, the Obama Administration and our next President must tackle additional challenges through subsequent legislation and administrative action in order to truly turn things around for Puerto Rico. These include the resolution of federal healthcare financing disparities, environmental remediation of Vieques and Culebra, investing in clean energy technologies, amending the unjust Jones Act shipping requirements, enacting progressive federal tax reform, appropriating infrastructure funding, and passing a long-term economic growth package.

In other words, our work is far from done and it’s time now for all stakeholders to come together to ensure we truly set Puerto Rico on a road to sustainable economic recovery.