Dear Leaders McCarthy, Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer:
As you prepare for the 116th Congress, the undersigned public interest, advocacy, and direct service organizations would like for you to commit to fully rebuilding and revitalizing the Island of Puerto Rico and make this a top legislative priority. Regardless of the outcome of this year’s midterm elections, there is much to be done in order for Congress to meet its obligations as the ultimate decision maker over Puerto Rico’s affairs. We enclose an issue-by-issue summary of pending agenda items, including:
Bringing Puerto Rico into parity under Medicaid and other federal health programs;
Increasing transparency and community participation in the use of federal disaster aid;
Ensuring Puerto Rico receives treatment consistent with the experience of other U.S. communities struck by natural disasters;
Extending the Child Tax Credit to all working families in Puerto Rico, funding an Earned Income Tax Credit, and approving a fix to the application of international taxes on the US territory (GILTI tax);
Mitigating the harms of climate change as it affects Puerto Rico residents and others throughout the United States; and
Providing adequate support to Puerto Ricans displaced from the territory due to the worsening economic and climate crises.
Puerto Rico continues to struggle with the slow release of disaster aid, a lack of strategic planning for the use of such funds, and the conflicting demands of a debt restructuring process that threatens to divert resources away from where they are most needed. Technical assistance grants have moved slowly and have failed to build the capacity needed in order to have a comprehensive recovery process with proper oversight. All of these shortcomings are exacerbated by Congress’ lack of interest in addressing Medicaid disparities and Puerto Rico’s exclusion from safety net programs across the board.
We would remind you that these issues have implications beyond the shores of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including states like Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas. The severe natural disasters of the past two years present a pivotal moment, with costly repercussions for the federal budget and the sustainability of coastal communities all over the United States. Climate refugees from Puerto Rico have had no choice but to relocate stateside, a great many of them permanently, decimating the local workforce and worsening the territory’s economic outlook. As such, these crises will continue to compound in Puerto Rico and find their way to the halls of Congress, one way or another.
In the 21st century, Puerto Rico should have the ability to address many of these problems without the need for congressional intervention. A fair and democratic self-determination process would allow the people of Puerto Rico to protect themselves and their island in the face of any future adversity, without having to rely on the support of other people’s elected representatives.
While we are grateful for recent congressional action to partially meet the costs of Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery, the issues plaguing Puerto Rico cannot be fixed merely through appropriations.
We eagerly await your response.
Alianza for Progress
Alliance for Puerto Rico
The Center for Popular Democracy
Faith in Action
The Hispanic National Bar Association
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
Make the Road Connecticut
Make the Road New York
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center
Puerto Rican Women in Action