Puerto Rico Debt and Disaster Relief

Since 2014, Jubilee USA Network has actively monitored Puerto Rico’s financial and debt crisis, growing child poverty rates and austerity policy implementation. In the Summer of 2015, Jubilee USA Network built a powerful coalition with the religious leaders and communities on the island to push for fair debt policies and combat austerity. By 2016, as a result of working in tandem with Puerto Rico partners and Jubilee USA’s US congregations and founding organizations, a super bankruptcy process, protections for an audit process and a child poverty reduction process were signed into US law. 

In 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Puerto Rico. Because the hurricanes spurred temporary construction economic growth and presumed federal recovery monies, progressive debt and economic plans were re-evaluated and shifted into plans with diminished debt cuts and increased austerity proposals. Jubilee USA, again worked with partners on the island and convened its founders and members to win:

  • $50 billion in disaster relief for rebuilding and recovery for Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane last year, 
  • Secure “better building” provisions so that the islands can rebuild to withstand future storms through our work with Congressional leadership and the White House,
  • $5 billion to increase Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico,
  • Moved Congress to remove unfair excise taxes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,
  • Launched our Model Law campaign in New York State that will provide protections against predatory lending behavior (if passed, the law will have a huge impact not only on Puerto Rico but also globally as over 50 percent of sovereign debt is governed by New York State Law)

Through the work of Jubilee USA and its partners, recent economic and debt plans are seeking to curb higher amounts of austerity and achieve higher cuts in the debt.

According to economist Martin Guzman, Puerto Rico could still need an additional 20% to 25% in debt cuts to support sustained economic growth. While there are many factors to consider, the best opportunity for sustained economic growth, debt sustainability and child poverty reduction now rests with winning the additional $70 to $80 billion dollars needed that is estimated for Puerto Rico’s recovery.