Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in America, the Jesuit Review speaking on Puerto Rico. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
Puerto Rico to receive $11 billion in disaster aid. Advocates warn it won't be enough.
By: J.D. Long-García
Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network has serious doubts. “Half a million people in Puerto Rico are still without power,” he said.
“There’s a lot of hopelessness across the island,” Mr. LeCompte said, adding that hundreds of thousands have left Puerto Rico since the hurricane. According to Mr. LeCompte, there has been a surge in suicide rates. While Mr. LeCompte applauded the approval of disaster relief, he added that “the work of Congress is not over yet.”
Even before the hurricane, half of the children in Puerto Rico lived in poverty, according to Mr. LeCompte.
“The suffering was already great on the island with hundreds of schools closed,” he said. “Austerity was impacting health care and social services. Because of the debt crisis, Puerto Rico was ill-prepared to deal with hurricanes.”
Mr. LeCompte noted that many Americans still do not realize Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Still, he expects the financial oversight board of Puerto Rico to recommend a five-year suspension of debt payments in the coming weeks.
“There is also a ‘super bankruptcy’ process taking place that Congress passed as a part of legislation,” Mr. LeCompte said. “That bankruptcy process will need to cut about 80 to 90 percent of the debt if Puerto Rico wants to see future economic growth.”
The island’s government estimates Puerto Rico needs $90 billion in aid in the aftermath of the hurricanes, Mr. LeCompte said. The U.S. Virgin Islands have requested more than $7.5 billion.
“We will need more disaster aid bills from Congress in the coming months,” he said. The current budget proposal also falls short of requests from California, Texas and Florida, according to Mr. LeCompte.
Read more here.
"The human suffering in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands continues, so I'm happy Republican and Democratic leadership could agree on disaster relief and healthcare funding for the poor," noted Jubilee USA Director, Eric LeCompte whose organization generated thousands of e-mails and phone calls to Congress ahead of the vote. "The work of Congress is not over yet. The aid package falls short of what the islands need and Congress will need to approve more disaster relief in the months ahead."
The spending bill includes more than $11 billion in recovery aid for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. More than $2 billion will be available to rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid. Moody's rating agency and the US Territory Governments estimate that more than $100 billion is needed to fully fund recovery and rebuilding efforts.
The law also includes money for Puerto Rico's Medicaid program that serves poor populations. Until Congress acted, Puerto Rico's Medicaid funding was weeks away from running out.
"We applaud Congress for moving forward the Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico," said LeCompte. "This program is critical for anti-poverty efforts and will generate billions of dollars for Puerto Rico's economy."
Religious leaders in Puerto Rico and across the United States have advocated for Medicaid financing with Congress and the White House for more than two years.
January 19, 2018
Government Shutdown Solutions Could Leave Out Disaster Aid for Puerto Rico
Economists Say Island Needs Debt Relief and Rebuilding Funds
Washington DC – As the Senate and White House struggle to avert a government shutdown, US disaster victims from Puerto Rico to Texas worry a deal on relief and recovery aid will continue to be delayed. Moody’s rating agency estimates that Puerto Rico alone needs an upwards of $90 billion in aid to rebuild.
“Congress has failed to deliver recovery and relief aid to millions of US citizens affected by natural disasters in the last year,” stated Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development group, Jubilee USA. “We are really concerned for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The islands were already dealing with high child poverty rates, developing world conditions and financial crises well before the hurricanes struck.”
In the last days of 2017, the US House of Representatives voted for an $81 billion dollar aid package for Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The House Bill fell short of the requests made by the Governors of the affected areas. As of Friday morning, Senators were still trying to negotiate some relief aid funding for Puerto Rico.
“It’s absolutely essential that Congress moves forward a recovery package as soon as possible. Aid must be enough to fully fund Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to rebuild to withstand the next storm,” said LeCompte who met with Republican and Democratic leadership on moving forward a recovery package. Since September, LeCompte’s organization generated thousands of petitions, phone calls and e-mails to Congress and the White House to provide relief for the US Territories through a series of action alerts.
As Congress wrestles with a recovery package for the beleaguered islands, Puerto Rico’s oversight board and Governor are preparing to release a new post hurricane economic plan. Before the hurricanes hit, Puerto Rico was entangled in a congressionally crafted bankruptcy process to deal with $72 billion in debt. The new fiscal plan will state how debt will be dealt with in a post hurricane Puerto Rico.
“The new plan for Puerto Rico must address the devastation caused by the hurricane and the problems that caused the prior deterioration of the economy,” a group of notable economists reflected in an open statement they released on Friday. Signers included: Antonio Weiss, former Counselor to the US Treasury Secretary; Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz; Simon Johnson, former International Monetary Fund chief economist; Mario Marazzi Santiago of the Puerto Rican Institute of Statistics; former top United Nations adviser, Jeffrey Sachs; Jason Furman, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council.
The economist release entitled, “A Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico,” calls for debt relief and substantial aid for Puerto Rico. The statement comes as Congress, the White House and the Island’s Governor and oversight board make decisions around the fate of the 3.5 million US citizens who call Puerto Rico home.
“The new final fiscal plan cannot allow a penny to be paid for debt until Puerto Rico sees positive economic recovery and is fully funded to be able to rebuild to withstand the next storm,” LeCompte noted. “Beyond the significant debt relief needed, Puerto Rico needs to stop all debt payments for at least five years.”
For nearly two years before the hurricanes struck, religious groups in Puerto Rico and the United States were advocating various solutions to deal with the growing financial crisis and high poverty rates. Shortly before Christmas, religious groups gathered in a Congress building to call for relief and aid. Supporting and participating groups included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Church of Christ, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, Franciscan Action Network, the National Association of Evangelicals, Muslim Public Affairs Council and Islamic Relief.
During the prayer service, Puerto Rico's Archbishop Roberto González Nieves reflected, "Puerto Rico desperately needs a complete debt relief, funding for rebuilding, and equal access to Medicare, Medicaid and child tax benefit funding. [...] Today we pray with the persistence and tenacity of the widow of the gospel; we pray full of hope that the miracle of compassion, openness toward and solidarity with Puerto Rico may come true."
Read the economist statement, “A Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico"
View Jubilee USA’s most recent action alert
Contact: Lydia C. Andrews, Deputy Director
As Congress works to avoid another government shutdown, a crucial part of the debate is the funding for relief and recovery aid desperately needed for disaster victims in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas and California.
Republican and Democratic leadership have told Jubilee USA that your phone calls and messages for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are making a BIG difference. Please act now.
Hurricane victims in Puerto and the US Virgin Islands are suffering as Congress debates a government shutdown. Please send a message to your Senators and Representative and tell them Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands needs recovery funding to rebuild to withstand the next storm. Let Congress know that Puerto Rico needs debt relief. Tell them that US Citizens living in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands should be able to receive the same level of access to Medicaid, Medicare and child tax benefits that citizens can access who live in the States.
Because of the pressure we put on Congress in recent weeks, we stripped the final Congress tax package of an "excise" tax on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Our collective action makes a big difference.
Send a message to Congress now. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands need recovery funding to rebuild to withstand the next storm. Tell them Puerto Rico needs debt relief. US Citizens living in Puerto Rico should be able to access Medicaid, Medicare and child tax benefits that citizens can access who live in the States.
At the end of 2017, Jubilee USA and our partners hosted a prayer service in Congress for Puerto Rico. Supporting and participating groups included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Church of Christ, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, Franciscan Action Network, the National Association of Evangelicals, Muslim Public Affairs Council and Islamic Relief. During the prayer service, Puerto Rico's Archbishop Roberto González Nieves reflected, "Puerto Rico desperately needs a complete debt relief, funding for rebuilding, and equal access to Medicare, Medicaid and child tax benefit funding. [...] Today we pray with the persistence and tenacity of the widow of the gospel; we pray full of hope that the miracle of compassion, openness toward and solidarity with Puerto Rico may come true."
Your calls and messages are urgently needed as Jubilee USA and our partners continue to walk the halls of Congress. Together we can win the aid and relief Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands desperately needs.
Thanks for taking action,