Today at the White House, joined by our colleagues U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, we hosted a roundtable discussion as part of our ongoing engagement with stakeholders on Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis and the urgent need for Congressional action to help the 3.5 million Americans on the island.
In our conversation at the roundtable, we made it clear that the escalating crisis requires new tools for Puerto Rico to restructure the Commonwealth's debt through an orderly process, paired with independent fiscal oversight, as detailed in the “Roadmap for Congressional Action” we released in October and included in the President’s FY17 Budget last week. Providing the tools to allow for an orderly restructuring requires Congress to confront difficult interests and tough issues, but it is essential to protect the 3.5 million Americans who live in the Commonwealth.
Secretary Lew provided an in-depth briefing on the worsening crisis in Puerto Rico, highlighting that it has forced the government of Puerto Rico to take extreme emergency measures like borrowing from its pensions and state insurance funds to stay afloat while sending public service providers IOUs. This May and June, Puerto Rico will face additional strain as over $2 billion in debt payments come due.
Secretary Burwell updated the group on our work to provide assistance to Puerto Rico, including Administration actions and legislative efforts to strengthen healthcare delivery in Puerto Rico.
Participants in the discussion included a broad span of Puerto Rican labor and community leaders, religious officials, business executives, and representatives from national Hispanic and Puerto Rican diaspora organizations. Each shared what they have seen first-hand of the crisis affecting the Puerto Rican people.
We left today’s discussion with the same conclusion - the crisis in Puerto Rico is urgent. We must all do our part to help the Commonwealth address its fiscal challenges head on and find a path back to growth. But Congress needs to act. We simply cannot provide Puerto Rico with the tools it desperately needs to confront this crisis without Congressional action.