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Larson Asks Speaker Ryan for Action on Puerto Rican Debt Crisis

March 8, 2016
Press Release

Hartford – On Friday, March 4th, Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) issued a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan urging swift action to prevent Puerto Rico from defaulting on its bond payments.

“Millions of Americans continue to suffer in the wake of Puerto Rico’s ongoing crisis,” said Larson. “Congress has the power to provide relief by fixing an oversight in the law and allowing Puerto Rico to restructure its debt. Every other state and municipality has the power to do the same. I commend my friends and colleagues across New England for joining me in this effort. We stand ready and willing to work with Speaker Ryan to put an end to this crisis before more Americans lose everything.”

Rep. Larson authored this letter following a meeting with leaders from Connecticut’s Puerto Rican community on February 17th, including Julio Mendoza (Executive Director, Spanish American Merchant Association), Yanil Terón (Executive Director, Center for Latino Progress) Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo (State Director, Hispanic Federation), Werner Oyanadel (Executive Director, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission), Julio Casiano (Deputy District Director, Connecticut SBA District Office), and Candida Flores (Executive Director, Family Life Education).

“I commend Congressman Larson, Speaker Ryan and our CT congressional delegation for their leadership and commitment finding a workable solution to help the island of Puerto Rico deal with their economic crisis,” said Werner Oyanadel, LPRAC Executive Director.  “Time is of essence on this problem and much can be done to avoid human tragedy.  Puerto Rico is not looking for a hand-out but rather they need a hand-up to get out of this mess and I am sure Speaker Ryan and his congressional colleagues will find the best approach to seek repayment in an equitable way that will help get the Puerto Rican economy back on track.  This is important to all Connecticut residents for many reasons – one of which is that our state has more Puerto Rican residents per capita than any other state, so failure to act will impact all of us here more than anywhere else in the country.”  

“We thank Congressman Larson for urging Congress to meet Speaker Ryan’s March 31st deadline for a bill that comprehensively and humanely addresses Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis” said Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation. “Congressman Larson and his co-signees are right: unless we act now to provide Puerto Rico broad debt restructuring authority, millions of American citizens will face devastating economic losses. We look forward to working with the New England congressional delegation in supporting legislation that stabilizes the island and protects the livelihoods of the 3.5 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico.”

The letter was co-signed by Reps. Joe Courtney (CT-02), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Jim Himes (CT-04), Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), Richard Neal (MA-01), David Cicilline (RI-01), and Peter Welch (VT-01). Less than 20 legislative days remain before Puerto Rico’s next major bond payment comes due on May 1st. Speaker Ryan has previously pledged to take action before March 31st to address the ongoing debt crisis.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Speaker Ryan,

We commend you for your efforts along with the other members of the Republican leadership and the relevant Committee chairmen to draft legislation by March 31st to address the economic crisis facing Puerto Rico, which is home to 3.5 million American citizens.  As you know, the financial problems that the island has been experiencing over the past few years continue to spiral downward and without Congressional action, conditions will worsen.  With more than 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the mainland United States, many of whom have strong ties to the island, the impact of this crisis extends beyond just Puerto Rico.  With less than 20 legislative days remaining before Puerto Rico’s next large bond payment comes due on May 1st, it is imperative not only that the Congress act swiftly, but also ensures that whatever legislation comes before us adequately addresses both immediate concerns and underlying issues that have contributed to the current crisis.

The most pressing priority is ensuring that Puerto Rico does not default on its bond payments.  We all support allowing Puerto Rico the ability to utilize Chapter 9 bankruptcy law to restructure its debt as the best way forward to address the crisis in the short-term. Rep. Pedro Pierluisi and Senator Blumenthal have sponsored legislation that would accomplish this.  However, given that the bill has not received floor consideration in either Chamber, we recognize that the legislation that you propose may differ from this approach.  We believe that it is imperative that any bill proposed allows Puerto Rico to restructure its debt and that if the proposal creates a temporary oversight board, that it respects the voices of Puerto Rican citizens and the roles of their democratically elected leaders.

In addition, we believe that it is essential that any legislative proposal dealing with the economic crisis in Puerto Rico contain language that tackles some of the longstanding problems with federal programs that have had a detrimental impact on the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and their economy.  These issues include disparate treatment under the Medicaid and Medicare programs, as well as under the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) programs.  If your proposal addresses these matters, it could significantly assist in ensuring stability and recovery over the long term in Puerto Rico.

We appreciate that you have tasked your Conference with coming up with a bill by the end of March and stand ready to work with you to assist in that effort.  We cannot stress enough how important it is that the proposal be drafted in a manner that provides the immediate relief in terms of restructuring authority, but also that meets head-on some of the systemic challenges in federal programs that must be addressed.  Recognizing the small number of legislative days before the next large bond payment is due, it is our hope that a bill can be considered on the floor prior to our adjournment for recess in March.  If this crisis is not addressed properly and expeditiously, we risk further devastation to the Puerto Rican people and the Puerto Rican economy as well as higher costs for U.S. taxpayers.  We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you on these important matters moving forward.


Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01)
Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03)

Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04)
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
Rep. Richard Neal (MA-01)
Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01)
Rep.Peter Welch (VT-01)