Religious Leaders Press Congress on Puerto Rico Relief, Jobs and Child Poverty

Washington DC – As Congress negotiates a coronavirus stimulus bill, Puerto Rico and US religious leaders met with Congress leaders on job creation, disaster relief and food benefits for Puerto Rico.

"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," wrote leaders of Puerto Rico Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical Churches to Congress over the summer. The Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities (Caritas) and the General Bible Society also joined the letter, resent to Congress this week.

Puerto Rico Catholic Archbishop Roberto González, one of the letter signers, joined US religious groups to meet with Republican leaders on priority actions for the island. The meetings organized by Jubilee USA Network encouraged authorization of $1.2 billion for the Nutrition Assistance Program that benefits 1.5 million people on the island. The House of Representatives passed a stimulus package that approved the funding, but that package did not pass the Senate.

“Before the pandemic hit Puerto Rico, the island wrestled with disaster recovery, high child poverty rates and a debt crisis,” said Jubilee USA Network Executive Director, Eric LeCompte. "Congress must move forward food assistance and efforts to support job creation for Puerto Rico."

In response to the calls for job creation, President Trump expressed support this fall for increasing pharmaceutical jobs on the island.

"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," wrote Puerto Rico religious leaders in their letter to Congress.

Read the Jubilee Puerto Rico Religious Leader Letter to Congress here.