Judge Delays Ruling on Puerto Rico Debt Deal

White House Opposes Island's Food Assistance Funding

Washington DC - On Thursday, Judge Laura Taylor Swain delayed approval of a $17 billion debt deal between Puerto Rico "COFINA" creditors and the island's oversight board. Citing concerns that her ruling could alter Puerto Rico's constitution, the judge requested additional materials to review on Monday from the federally appointed oversight board.

"We are concerned that the plan under consideration doesn't cut enough debt," said Eric LeCompte who heads Jubilee USA and has monitored the island's financial situation since 2015. "I am worried that this type of plan will mean Puerto Rico will be trapped in an endless cycle of debt."

In court, opponents of the debt plan requested that Swain further delay any decision until the Internal Revenue Service can review the tax status of new bonds that are a part of the deal. The IRS can not currently assess the bonds because their doors are shuttered during the US Government partial shutdown.

Swain is also considering canceling another $6 billion of Puerto Rico's debt that the fiscal oversight board argues violated constitutional debt limits. 

"Puerto Rico debt from 2012 and 2014 bonds should be voided as the island had already exceeded it's legal debt limit," said LeCompte who serves on United Nation finance expert groups. "The island wrestles with a 60% child poverty rate and is still recovering from the hurricanes. Debt needs to be cut for both legal reasons and moral reasons."

As the Puerto Rico bankruptcy process continues, the government shutdown is slowing a budget decision on $600 million dollars in food aid for poor families in the US Territory. On Thursday, the White House wrote Congress opposing funding for Puerto Rico's Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) that aids more than a million people on the island. The House of Representatives approved NAP funding in their version of the budget, now stalled during the shutdown.

"Access to food for poor families should not be used as a political bargaining chip in the budget shutdown negotiations," said LeCompte. "Puerto Rico is trapped in debt and rebuilding from hurricanes. Cutting food subsidies to the poor is just inhumane."

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Puerto Rico Bankruptcy Judge Reviews Debt Deal

Oversight Board Files for $6 Billion Debt Cancellation 

Washington DC - Through Thursday, the judge presiding over Puerto Rico's bankruptcy process will hear testimony about a debt deal to restructure about $17 billion of the island's $72 billion debt. The Honorable Judge Laura Taylor Swain is administering the island's Title III process, a debt restructuring process created by Congress in 2016. This week Swain is hearing testimony from stakeholders of the merits of a debt deal that Puerto Rico's COFINA creditors and oversight board agreed on. Critics of the plan argue that if the debt deal is approved, it sets up Puerto Rico for failure.

"The current agreement doesn't do enough to support sustained economic growth, reduce austerity or ensure that Puerto Rico rebuilds from last year's hurricanes," said Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who monitored the island's debt woes since 2015. "If this is the recipe to restructure Puerto Rico's debt, Puerto Rico will be back at the restructuring table in a few years."

This week Puerto Rico's oversight board filed a request to cancel debt to Judge Swain. $6 billion in General Obligation bond debt from 2012 and 2014 exceeded set Puerto Rico constitutional debt limits, according to the court filing.

"The move to cancel this debt is important. It should be declared null and void," stated LeCompte. "The debt violated debt limits and some hedge funds were looking to exploit this debt."

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2019 Goals, Double Our 2019 Impact

Friends, 

Thanks to your partnership, Jubilee USA Network effectively moves Congress, the White House, the G7/G20, the United Nations, the IMF and World Bank to enact policies that reduce poverty, address inequality and promote solutions to financial crisis.

Your gift to Jubilee USA is needed to move forward our 2019 goals. Your donation is doubled now and is tax-deductible. Please join me and make a gift that tackles the root causes of poverty.

Our debt, tax, transparency and trade efforts protect the vulnerable and our planet. With your support our Jubilee USA campaigns: 

  • Will win debt and austerity relief for Puerto Rico and Caribbean islands wrestling with financial crisis. Our disaster-triggered debt relief processes will also gain momentum
  • In the new NAFTA, will gain more ground on stopping vulture funds, settling trade disputes in favor of vulnerable communities and ensuring people can access life-saving medicines
  • Will win the remaining hurricane relief for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We have another $80 billion to win on top of the $50 billion we already won this year
  • Will prevent corruption from oil and extractive industries by implementing new reporting rules that will stop bribery, protect debt relief and curb tax evasion in the developing world
  • Can pass rules to stop tax evasion, corporate tax avoidance, corruption and anonymous shell companies
  • At the G20 and the IMF, can move forward the implementation of new global responsible lending and borrowing rules
  • Continue to protect transparency rules in Dodd-Frank and protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from attacks
  • Raise the alarm and push solutions on the growing debt crises in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and Latin America.

Whether your gift is $25, $5 or $500, it is needed and can accomplish a lot in the year to come.

In 2017 and 2018, we moved the Administration on global responsible lending, we launched a new website, started the Puerto Rico bankruptcy process and moved Congress and the White House on $46 billion in Puerto Rico and USVI relief aid (a third of what we are continuing our efforts to win).

Because we work closely with Republican and Democratic leadership, we strategically secured "better building" provisions so Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands can rebuild to withstand future storms. We successfully moved $4.9 billion of Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and we moved Congress to remove unfair excise taxes on the island.

Thanks to your support in the last year:

  • We’ve successfully launched more initiatives, projects and campaigns than we have started over the last 5 years
  • We convened major meetings with over 60 Ambassadors and heads of state on our efforts
  • We’ve reestablished relationships with all levels of the White House, Treasury and Republican and Democratic leadership
  • Our efforts continue to receive news coverage in tens of thousands of news outlets in every corner of the world on our tax, trade, debt and transparency work
  • We've seen the largest increase in new member and partner organizations that we've seen for years at Jubilee USA. Our new Muslim, Jewish and Christian partners continue to grow
  • Partnering with the Vatican, we are moving forward major interfaith global events on building an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the vulnerable
  • In March of 2018 we launched a campaign that can change how the global financial system treats countries, states and territories wrestling with financial crisis, debt and austerity. We are doing this by changing the New York laws that govern most of the world's debt
  • In May we launched our campaign to secure medicine access for vulnerable populations in trade agreements. We did this with the full partnership and leadership of Reform Jews and the Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist and United Church of Christ Churches
  • Our efforts continue to curb tax evasion, corruption and “illicit financial flows." We are releasing analysis on human trafficking and anonymous shell companies. We'll pass global transparency measures in Congress
  • We are protecting Section 1504 of the “Cardin-Lugar” amendment that requires US oil and extractive industries to report financial operational data in countries where they operate
  • Our daily work continues on payday lending, student debt and bank protections under Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Last Fall, hurricanes ravaged islands across the Caribbean. Jubilee USA sprang into action establishing a campaign to create a new global process to support debt relief processes for islands when they are affected by natural disasters or hurricanes. Because of consistent campaigning, in April the IMF and United Nations Financing for Development Forum discussed our proposal. In May our proposal was discussed at the G7 and we are moving it forward
  • Within our current budget, we moved to the United Methodist Building and our office space is directly across from the US Capitol. Our new space is larger, more professional and an even better site for convening our efforts.

Your support makes all of our work possible. With a few hundred thousand dollars, we win billions. Please join me and make a generous gift today. Your contribution is really needed, is tax-deductible and will be matched.

Gratefully,

Eric

Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

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Jubilee in the News--A Year of Progress

Friends, 

From The Wall Street Journal to The Hill, Catholic News Service to The Washington Post, and in newspapers from Indonesia to your local newspaper, your support puts media spotlight on the impacts economic policies have on the vulnerable. This year tens of thousands of newspapers, television and radio shows covered Jubilee USA's efforts.

See some of the coverage of Jubilee USA's work below. 

Happy Holidays,

Kate

Kate Zeller
Campaigns Director

JUBILEE IN THE NEWS


The IMF, World Bank, Africa Debt and Financial Crisis
The Wall Street Journal (Oct 11)
Global Capital (Oct 15)
New Telegraph (Oct 10)
The Daily Trust (Oct 10)
Sahara Reporters (Oct 10)
BBC World New Live (Oct 10)
Leadership (Oct 9)
The Nation (Oct 9)
Ghana Business News (Sept 5)
ValueWalk (May 17) 
All Africa (Apr 23) 


Small Island Crisis, Caribbean Debt Relief and Hurricane Aid
National Catholic Reporter (Nov 20)
America (Oct 9)
Devex (May 3) 
ValueWalk (April 25)
Bretton Woods Project (April 19)
InDepthNews IDN (Mar 18)
Common Dreams (Mar 16) 


Illicit Financial Flows, Tax Evasion and Transparency
Catholic Profiles (Dec 7)
BBC World New Live (Oct 10)
Ghana Business News (Sept 13)
Common Dreams (Aug 3)
Catholic News Service (May 31)
National Catholic Reporter (May 18)
Bretton Woods Project (April 19)
Common Dreams (Mar 9)


Student Debt
Common Dreams (Dec 7)


Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
National Catholic Reporter (Nov 20)
The Wall Street Journal (Oct 4) 
Aleteia (Oct 1) 
Bloomberg (Sept 28)
America (Sept 20)
Politico (June 8)
The Bond Buyer (May 31)
ValueWalk (May 17) 
The Hill (April 19)
Bloomberg (April 19)
Metro Puerto Rico (April 18)
National Catholic Reporter (April 16)
ValueWalk (April 2)
Brietbart (March 31)
The Wall Street Journal (March 15)
The Bond Buyer (March 7)
The Intercept (Feb 21)
America (Feb 12)
El Nuevo Dia (Feb 7)
The World Week (Jan 10)
The Tablet (Jan 2)


Vatican Statement on Debt, Tax and Financial Crisis
Catholic News Service (May 31)
National Catholic Reporter (May 18)


NAFTA, Trade, Development and Access to Medicine
America (May 23)
Crux (May 22) 
Catholic News Service (May 22)
NAFTA: Interfaith Statement on Trade and Access to Medicines (May 18)
National Catholic Reporter (May 18)


And more…
Catholic Profiles (Dec 7)
The Wall Street Journal (Oct 11)
Koran Jakarta (Oct 11)
America (Oct 9)
Nearshore Americas (Sept 27)
The National (Sept 17) 
ValueWalk (Jan 4)

 

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Jubilee USA Urges Congress to Pass Puerto Rico Aid and Debt Relief Protections

Washington DC - As Democrats and Republicans head toward a budget showdown this week, several Puerto Rico amendments could be added to budget bills. More than a million US citizens in Puerto Rico could lose food assistance benefits if Congress does not authorize an additional $600 million for the Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).

"Before Congress goes on recess, Congress must approve funding so that poor kids, the elderly, disabled and the most vulnerable can access food in Puerto Rico," stated Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. On Monday, LeCompte's organization rallied more than 20,000 of its members to urge Congress to pass the NAP funding before year-end.

260,000 people will lose benefits and more than a million people will see their benefits cut if Congress does not take action this week.

Over the last year, Jubilee USA worked with Congress and federal agencies to secure more than $45 billion in rebuilding aid for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The religious development group worked closely with Republican and Democratic leadership to secure "better building" provisions so that Puerto Rico can rebuild to withstand future storms. According to estimates from Puerto Rico's Governor and oversight board, another $80 billion is needed to fully fund recovery efforts.

"In the coming days and months, Congress needs to fully fund the rebuilding needs of Puerto Rico," stated LeCompte. "We need to see action from Congress that provides transparency disclosures so we know when creditors are advising debt negotiations. We also need to prevent creditors collecting hurricane relief monies."

Debt negotiations in Puerto Rico received recent scrutiny because a subsidiary of a firm who owns Puerto Rico debt is advising debt deals. Puerto Rico religious leaders and finance experts also raised concerns that debt holders are trying to collect hurricane relief monies.

Read Jubilee USA's action alert to Congress

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Call Congress: Urgent Puerto Rico Action

Friends, 

Thanks to your actions, we've moved Congress consistently on Puerto Rico over the last three years. Jubilee USA successfully focused on cutting Puerto Rico's debt, preventing austerity, securing monies to protect the vulnerable and winning hurricane rebuilding aid.

Before Congress goes on recess Friday, Congress will decide the fate of 260,000 vulnerable US citizens living in Puerto Rico who rely on the Nutritional Assistance Program or NAP. The 260,000 low income people will lose their benefits and another million people in Puerto Rico will see their benefits cut.

Please call Congress now and urge that they fund the Nutritional Assistance Program to protect poor children, the elderly and disabled. Tell Congress to fund disaster assistance and support a transparent debt restructuring that reduces child poverty.

Your efforts so far have won more than $45 billion in rebuilding aid for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Our work over the next year is critical as we work to secure another $80 billion in funds needed for rebuilding. Because of Jubilee USA's work with Republican and Democratic leadership, we secured "Better Building" provisions so that Puerto Rico can rebuild to withstand future storms.

In the weeks to come our work together is critical as we move forward a debt restructuring in Puerto Rico that is transparent, prevents austerity, reduces austerity and ensures that Puerto Rico can have a sustainable economy.

As you receive this, the US Government is preparing letters for 260,000 people in Puerto Rico telling them that during the holidays, their food assistance monies will be cut. Another million people will see their food benefits cut. We can stop this additional austerity now. Call Congress now and tell them to fund NAP for the US citizens living in Puerto Rico.

On Friday, Congress goes home for the holidays. If we act now, we can make sure that many of our friends in Puerto Rico have a brighter holiday season.

Thanks for taking action.

Gratefully,

Kate 

Kate Zeller
Campaigns Director

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End of Year Report 2018

Friends, 

I am so grateful for your partnership. Together we continue to address the root causes of poverty, inequality, war, terrorism and migration.

When you read our 2018 year-end report, you'll read how we exceeded expectations in a challenging political environment. You'll see how we won new US and global debt, tax, trade and transparency policies that address the root causes of migration and poverty.

Remarkably, our efforts from Puerto Rico to NAFTA to the International Monetary Fund were covered in tens of thousands of news outlets. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, global television and your local newspaper covered our thoughts and work.

Major funders, partners and journalists all tell me they think our annual budget is in the millions. They are floored when they learn that our policy, organizing and media impact happens on a budget of a few hundred thousand. It's why every gift really, really matters for us. 

Together over the last year we launched 5 new campaigns and we won 6 major victories. In our 2018 year-end report, you learn how we won more than $45 billion in rebuilding aid for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.   

Because of our strategic efforts together, we moved Republicans and Democrats to ensure that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands can rebuild to withstand future storms. 

In the new NAFTA, we stopped “vulture funds” from collecting on old debt and organized major religious institutions to demand that all people should be able to access life-saving medicine. After years of pressure, we moved the IMF to acknowledge the new debt crisis in Africa and the importance of preventing the next global financial crisis.

In our 2018 year-end report, you'll see why a gift really matters.

When you read our 2018 year-end report you'll see how we are one of few organizations that will move the White House, Congress, G-20, IMF and United Nations in 2019. You'll read in our comprehensive year-end report that we are poised to address the root causes of migration, poverty, terrorism, war and inequality in the year to come.

We are so grateful for your support.

Gratefully,

Eric


Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

Twitter: @Eric_LeCompte

P.s. Please join me and make a tax-deductible gift to Jubilee USA today. Whether that gift is $5, $25 or $250 it goes a very very long way on our little budget.



 
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Fed Says College Students Have More Debt than Previous Generations

Washington DC - A study released from the Federal Reserve Board notes that 70 percent of college students are graduating with more than $37,000 in debt.

"Student loan debt has reached crisis levels," noted Eric LeCompte who heads the religious debt watchdog, Jubilee USA Network. "Current graduates are carrying higher debts than any previous generation."

The Federal Reserve Board study found that college student debt levels in 2017 were twice as high as student debt in 2004.

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Light Amidst Terror, Chag Sameach

Friends,

From my family and all at Jubilee USA, I wish you and your family every blessing as you celebrate Hanukkah.

In this time of terror, darkness and tumult, I struggle to simply send you a "Happy Hanukkah." Tree of Life weighs heavy on me. As a leader of an interfaith organization, I struggle with growing hate crimes against my Jewish mothers and fathers.

I'm a Catholic who celebrates on Sunday a "CliffsNotes" Shabbat. But, I reflect on the wicked king and we remember the resistance of the People of God and the light that this time celebrates.

This gives me hope. I am grateful to resist the sick wickedness with you. I am grateful to walk into the light with you. 

Chag Sameach,

Eric

Eric LeCompte
Executive Director


 

 

 

 

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Eric LeCompte Featured by Profiles in Catholicism

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, recently spoke with Profiles in Catholicism about the history of his work at Jubilee USA and Jubilee USA's current campaigns. Read an excerpt below and follow this link to the full article.

An Interview with Eric LeCompte

Gordon: When were you appointed as Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, and what have been some of the most rewarding experiences that you have had to date?

Eric: I took over the reigns of Jubilee USA in April 2010. Working at Jubilee USA is a fulfillment of my Catholic vocation. The most rewarding experience of my career is working with, supporting and advising Catholic and other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders. Working with the Bishops and Catholic religious orders of the United States, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Africa, and Latin America as well as major interfaith leaders in all of these regions can only be described as a gift.

Together this interfaith work has had unprecedented results. We’ve moved forward major policies to address the structural causes of poverty - debt, tax, and trade issues. In Africa, our efforts brought aid and debt relief monies to confront the Ebola epidemic that hit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. We created a new process at the International Monetary Fund that strengthened healthcare and built new hospitals across the region.

In the Caribbean, we rallied religious leaders to deal with financial crisis and high poverty rates head on. In Puerto Rico, our work with religious leaders yielded new processes to address the 60 percent child poverty rate.

Globally, our work at Jubilee USA with the Holy See and interfaith religious partners won policies to address the causes of poverty worldwide. Together, we won new global policies to stop the exploitive behavior of vulnerable communities and decreased global corruption. It's been our efforts that called attention to the financial crisis and the reality that developing countries can't deal with poverty without dealing with high debt loads, budget transparency and tax evasion.

At the same time, the great reward of supporting and working with Catholic and other religious leaders in every corner of our world has also met challenges. While our successes together are myriad, our work must continue to address the root causes of poverty.

The same causes of poverty also spur inequality, human rights abuse, terrorism, war, and environmental degradation. I admire the teaching of our Holy Father who frames all of these issues in the economic issues that I am privileged to work on.

Gordon: You have been a tireless advocate for the reduction of poverty globally. Poverty may have a different connotation in different parts of the world. Please share your definition of poverty with our readers.

Eric: Global standards assume that anyone living on less than $1.90 a day lives in extreme poverty. But in the simplest of terms, poverty is not having enough healthy food to eat or receive basic education or health-care or have access to decent shelter. In every country of the world and on every continent, there are severe forms of need and extreme poverty.

As a Catholic and as someone who works on the causes of poverty, we can not separate these issues from the causes of inequality. The wealthiest 80 people in the world have more wealth the half of the world's population. 80 people on earth own more than the bottom 3.6 billion people in the world. The causes of poverty, that I work on, are debt, tax, trade, and transparency policies. It's why our work at Jubilee USA Network is so incredibly important.

Gordon: What are our moral obligations as Catholics to address poverty?

Eric: Our faith requires us as a moral obligation to not only be charitable but to address the primary causes of poverty. As Catholics, scripture and Catholic doctrine and the Holy Father call us to do everything in our power to end poverty.

The Catholic Church is at the forefront of articulating that we can not end poverty without addressing the structural causes of poverty.

Gordon: In your opinion and based on your testimony to the US Congress, how has the United States addressed the support of the people in need in Puerto Rico?

Eric: I think that the US Government has addressed the situation of Puerto Rico in a range of ways. I testified several times before Congress met with Puerto Rico’s former and current Governor and testified to the Congressionally installed oversight board of Puerto Rico. My message, rooted in Catholic teaching, is that it is imperative for decision makers to protect the vulnerable, limit austerity policies, protect the environment and reduce the nearly 60 percent child poverty rate on the island.

Our message is met with many responses. Both positive and negative.

Puerto Rico remains a colony of the United States and as such, decisions the US Government makes impact Puerto Rico. The Catholic Church, the Archbishop of San Juan and Caritas has been heroic in their advocacy for Puerto Rico’s people. Working with the Catholic and other interfaith religious groups on the island has brought a strong response from the Obama and Trump White Houses as well as Republican and Democratic leadership. The partnership of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has also been instrumental.

Because of our role with Catholic partners, we won a process to restructure the debt and reduce austerity. We’ve won rules for preferential treatment of poor communities. At this point, we’ve won more than 40 billion dollars in hurricane aid. We’ve ensured that policies are in place so Puerto Rico can rebuild to withstand the next storm.

With that noted, we still face enormous challenges. Creditor groups are successfully preventing positive debt restructuring and the island needs another 80 billion in aid. Our work as Catholics to lift and defend the people of Puerto Rico is so essential now and must continue.

Gordon: As a member of expert working groups to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, what is your experience can nations do to more effectively deal with life-threatening poverty wherever it occurs?

Eric: Life-threatening poverty is caused by structural policies. Debt, tax, and trade policies are why resources are poorly distributed and why poverty exists. It's why Catholic teaching is so important in terms of going beyond the important works of charity and working towards acts of justice. Our Savior reminds us of this when he declares the year of the Lord’s favor or the year of Jubilee, in his first public act in Luke’s gospel. He reiterates the call of the prophets: in order to live in harmony with one another, we must act for justice.

Countries must go beyond giving aid, we need to implement policies that will end poverty. The developing world loses a trillion dollars a year because of tax evasion and corruption. Countries around the world lose hundreds of billions annually because of a lack of public budget transparency and irresponsible borrowing. For every 1 dollar in aid developing countries receive, they lose 5 dollars in debt payments. At the United Nation, the IMF and in every country in the world, we can change these policies. Even minor shifts will release hundreds of millions of people from the bondage of poverty.

Gordon: You address the diverse challenges of religion, politics and economics often in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, McClatchy News Service, National Public Radio, Agence-France Presse, Market Place, CNN Money, the Financial Times and The Hill. What issues have resulted in the most feedback?

Eric: Sharing the Gospel with the media is critical for our efforts. Because we raise these issues in the mainstream media, there is a broader understanding of the actual structures that create global poverty.

Many of us don't realize how issues like debt, tax, and trade are the source of inequality and poverty. These issues impact our lives almost as much as the very oxygen we breathe. The media, just like most of us, is yearning to understand and communicate these issues. It's how why we spend so much time engaging with them.

Gordon: Jesus asked us to live our neighbor as ourselves Considering we are members of a global community and a global religion, who is our neighbor?

Eric: In our global community, we are all neighbors. In this global economy, what happens to one of us impacts all of us. We are called to love our neighbors, no matter who they are or where they call home.

Gordon: Thank you for this exceptional interview.

Read more here
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