Puerto Rico Religious Leader Stimulus Letter to Congress

Jubilee USA Network
110 Maryland Ave. NE, Ste 210
Washington, D.C. 20002

July 28, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

"May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!" --- Psalm 72:16

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

As you move forward stimulus plans and your legislative agenda, please implement plans that offer both relief and opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico. We are grateful for many of the past efforts of Congress and we believe certain stimulus actions will not only benefit the US citizens of Puerto Rico, but could also benefit all US citizens across the 50 states and other territories battling the coronavirus pandemic.

1.) 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. Puerto Rico has skilled labor, the capacity, and the facilities to immediately take up additional pharmaceutical and personal protective equipment manufacturing, to aid in the fight against COVID-19 and increase supplies in the United States. In the mid-2000s, Puerto Rico lost over 100,000 good jobs to India and China. This loss led to our current debt crisis and many of the economic challenges we now face, further exasperated by a series of natural disasters. Given the constraints that exist in global supply chains and critical needs faced by all US citizens, current stimulus plans should include measures to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs immediately to Puerto Rico and revive Puerto Rico's failing and debt-burdened economy.

2.) Nearly 60% of our children, US citizens, live in poverty in Puerto Rico. Our children are in vital need of Congressional action. The suffering our children face from the high-level of poverty, the recurring natural disasters and now COVID-19, can only be described as tragic. On August 1st, many of our children will lose Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and nearly 190,000 vulnerable people will be cut from these benefits. Congressional action must ensure that by July 31st, $1.236 billion dollars is authorized to continue this program that impacts almost 1.5 million US citizens who reside in Puerto Rico.

3.) Congress should move forward additional disaster recovery monies for Puerto Rico. The devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, earthquakes and the coronavirus impact US citizens on the island. Conservative estimates note that Puerto Rico needs an additional $60 billion in recovery aid. We hope Congress can move forward this aid for the US citizens living in Puerto Rico and for the broader commerce agenda critical for all US citizens.

Please know we continue to hold you and your public service mission in our daily prayers.

Sincerely,

Roberto O. González Nieves OFM
Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico

Rubén González Medina CMF
Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ponce

Reverend Felipe Lozada Montañez
President of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches and Emeritus Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran in Puerto Rico

Reverend Miguel A. Morales Castro
General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico

Reverend Héctor F. Ortiz Vidal
Bishop of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico

Reverend Esteban González Dobles
Former General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico

Reverend Rafael Moreno Rivas
Emeritus Bishop of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico

Reverend Heriberto Martínez Rivera
General Secretary of the Puerto Rico Bible Society

Reverend Enrique Camacho
Executive Director of Cáritas (Catholic Charities) of Puerto Rico

CC: Members of Congress

Download the letter as a PDF here.

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UK aid cuts, G-20 debt delays, and the EU's budget deal: This week in development

By Michael Igoe

The U.K. government plans to cut its aid budget by $3.7 billion — a larger reduction than many expected — which was announced without consultation or explanation, critics say. The decrease, described in a letter from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to chairs of parliamentary select committees and first reported by Devex, amounts to roughly 20% of the country’s aid budget and reflects Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s direction to reduce aid in line with projected economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. "Given the likely decrease in the size of the economy this year, the Prime Minister asked me to identify the changes needed to ensure we meet, but do not exceed the 0.7% commitment," Raab wrote, referring to the U.K. law that ties aid spending to gross national income. “What kind of people are we that we are taking steps to avoid spending more than we have to on aid in the midst of a global health and economic crisis?” Owen Barder, CEO of Precision Agriculture for Development, asked on Twitter. Some of the cuts are expected to take place immediately, and Raab wrote that the “package includes underspends, delaying activity and stopping some spend.” The government will also tailor its spending for the remainder of the year as it develops a “clearer economic picture.” Sarah Champion, chair of the International Development Committee, which monitors official development assistance spending, told Devex she is worried about “the speed at which these decisions have been made, the lack of transparency about what is being cut and why, and clearly the lack of consultation about it.”

The G-20 pushed decisions about further debt suspension or forgiveness off to the fall. The group of leading rich and developing nations met last weekend and discussed additional action but could not come to agreement. A communiqué from the G-20 meeting reported that 42 countries have requested to participate in the debt service suspension initiative announced in April, which means about $5.3 billion in debt payments will be deferred. The G-20 used stronger language to call on the private sector to participate in the debt freeze. Development advocates hoped to see at least an extension of debt relief, as well as conversations that would lay the groundwork for future debt forgiveness, action on helping cash-strapped middle-income countries, and discussions on issuing International Monetary Fund special drawing rights. “Given how severe the crisis continues to be, we hoped that would see at least some minimal action,” Eric LeCompte, executive director of the Jubilee USA Network, told Devex. The G-20 got caught up in politics and could not build the consensus it needed to make a decision, he said, adding that delays in decision-making could cost lives and create difficulties for countries planning their finances.

European Union leaders agreed to a long-awaited budget deal on Tuesday, adding an $860 billion pandemic recovery fund to a seven-year, $1.24 trillion budget. The deal left some development advocates underwhelmed, as it included only a slight increase in external spending — from an estimated $113 billion in the previous cycle to $114 billion for 2021-2027. The European Commission had previously proposed an additional $18 billion development and humanitarian spending package, but this proposal disappeared over the course of difficult negotiations among states grappling with the economic shock of the pandemic. Andrew Sherriff, head of the European external affairs program at the European Centre for Development Policy Management think tank, told Devex the outcome was disappointing, given “the rhetoric of the Geopolitical commission, COVID-19's global impact, addressing climate change and much talk about an enhanced partnership with Africa,” though he noted that external spending fared better in the negotiations than some other budget lines. Others pointed to silver linings including a digital levy, environmental taxes, and a possible financial transaction tax.

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By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Reacting to the latest development, Jubilee USA Executive Director, Eric LeCompte, said that he “had hoped the debt payment suspension for the world’s poorest countries would be continued into 2021 given the severity of the crisis.”

Appeals for expanded debt suspension - 

Ahead of last Saturday’s meeting, Jubilee USA, an interfaith alliance of religious, development and advocacy organizations, sent a letter to the G20 Finance Ministers calling for action in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. 

The letter, signed by over 200 organizations, recommended expanded debt relief, more aid for developing countries, processes to curb corruption, and enacting market and financial crisis protections for more developing countries.

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LeCompte disse que apesar da falta de um compromisso para a extensão da moratória, uma das principais expectativas sobre esta reunião do G20, liderado este ano pela Arábia Saudita, um dos aspetos positivos foi a linguagem, que é agora mais dura para com os credores privados.

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More than 200 religious, labor, human rights, environmental and development groups signed a separate letter spearheaded by Jubilee USA Network that was sent to G20 leaders, the White House and the International Monetary Fund this week.

"The G20 will make decisions this weekend that affect the survival of billions of vulnerable people confronting the pandemic," said Eric LeCompte, the group's executive director.

"We need to mobilize a lot more resources for people to confront the crisis."

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A proposal to increase these reserve assets, which would boost the IMF’s lending power, was blocked by the U.S. at the lender’s April meeting. However, China’s central bank governor on Thursday called on the IMF to use a new issue of SDRs to help developing countries.

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Many said the future was unclear.

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For others the measure of failure is quite simple.

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Advantage Business Consulting President Vicente Feliciano said PROMESA prevented debt restructuring from going into a tailspin.

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Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, said having the data in one place would make it easier to deal with an impending wave of debt restructurings.

“It’s no longer a question of if, now it’s just a matter of when,” he said.

The G20’s International Financial Architecture Working Group is due to meet virtually on Tuesday to discuss the initiative and private sector participation, LeCompte said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Sandra Maler, Kim Coghill and Sonya Hepinstall)

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