Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently quoted in America, The Jesuit Review speaking on rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still rebuilding
One year after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, rebuilding efforts are still in the early phases, according to Eric LeCompte, the executive director of Jubilee USA Network.
“On the ground itself, it’s really mixed depending on where you are on the island,” Mr. LeCompte told America. “You still see blue tarps,” he said, referring to blue plastic tarps relief workers issued as temporary fixes to leaky roofs. Congress has authorized one-third of the estimated $120 billion some estimate Puerto Rico will require for recovery, Mr. LeCompte said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that power, water and cell service has been restored to more than 99 percent of the island. But Mr. LeCompte said that power is not stable and Puerto Rico still suffers from blackouts. Countless traffic lights still do not work.
“They’re terribly vulnerable. If another hurricane hit, they would be devastated,” he said.
Migration away from the island, which Mr. LeCompte said continues, could lead to more schools closing. Even before the hurricane, the child poverty rate in Puerto Rico hovered near 60 percent, he said.
“There’s no doubt that Congress is not paying enough attention to Puerto Rico,” Mr. LeCompte said. In 2016, Congress ended tax incentives that had encouraged pharmaceutical companies to do business in Puerto Rico. Many companies left.
This development, along with unscrupulous lending practices, helps explain Puerto Rico’s complicated debt crisis, Mr. LeCompte said. The $72 billion debt is part of the reason Puerto Rico has had a difficult time recovering.
“It continues to struggle as it rebuilds,” Mr. LeCompte said. “We’re looking at a terrible situation made worse by the debt crisis. The reality is that the only way for Puerto Rico to grow is to see significant debt relief.”
Read more here.