Washington DC - Religious leaders representing over 95% of Puerto Rico's population wrote Congress urging that the island be included in the next stimulus plan. Job creation, disaster relief and protections for the vulnerable were lifted in a letter signed by leaders of the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical Churches. The Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities (Caritas) and the General Bible Society also added their names to the letter to Congress.
"Nearly 60% of our children, US citizens, live in poverty in Puerto Rico. Our children are in vital need of Congressional action," wrote the religious leaders who included Roberto González, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Juan and Evangelical leader, Heriberto Martínez. "We encourage Congress to immediately implement measures to return manufacturing jobs to Puerto Rico, by adopting legislation that encourages pharmaceuticals to spur economic recovery and job creation in areas of high unemployment and poverty," the religious leader letter to Congress continued.
In the mid-2000s, Congress did not renew incentives for pharmaceutical jobs in Puerto Rico and tens of thousands of jobs were lost. In the letter to Congress, the religious leaders urged measures to restore these jobs and argued that Puerto Rico has skilled labor and capacity to help meet production needs for personal protective equipment and other supplies to confront COVID-19.
In 2015, Puerto Rico's religious leaders were the first to raise the alarm on the island's debt crisis and noted the loss of pharmaceutical jobs, in part, led to the crisis. Later, the leaders continually met with the White House and Congress leadership to move forward child poverty reduction and disaster and debt relief efforts.
The communication to Congress from the faith leaders comes as food benefits expire this week. Some funding for Puerto Rico's Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) expires on July 31st and leaves 190,000 vulnerable people without food access benefits. In the age of COVID-19 and continuing natural disasters in Puerto Rico, the NAP program supports 1.5 million people or half of the current population.
"We are dealing with a crisis like no other and Puerto Rico should be included in the stimulus plan," said Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who advises Puerto Rico's religious leaders. "Congress can take action that benefits Puerto Rico's people and the fight against the coronavirus."
With supply chains for pharmaceutical coronavirus products stressed in the US, the religious leaders argue that production in Puerto Rico is a critical part of the solution.
The letter was signed by Felipe Lozada Montañez the President of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches and Emeritus Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Miguel A. Morales Castro the General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Héctor F. Ortiz Vidal the Bishop of the Methodist Church, Reverend Enrique Camacho the Executive Director of Cáritas (Catholic Charities), Reverend Heriberto Martínez Rivera the General Secretary of the Puerto Rico Bible Society, Roberto O. González Nieves the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico, Rubén González Medina the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ponce, Esteban González Dobles the former General Pastor of the Christian Church and Rafael Moreno Rivas the Emeritus Bishop of the Methodist Church.
Read the Puerto Rico stimulus religious leader letter to Congress here.