On June 30th, President Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation to address the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, providing Puerto Rico with the tools it needs to restructure its debts and embark on a path to economic recovery. That legislation, Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), establishes a seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board tasked with working with the people and government of Puerto Rico to create the needed foundation for economic growth, and to restore opportunity to the 3.5 million Americans of Puerto Rico.
Today, President Obama appointed the seven members of the Board. In accordance with PROMESA, six of the members come from lists submitted by Congressional leadership, two from the Speaker of the House, two from the Senate Majority Leader, and one member each from lists submitted by the House Minority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader. These seven individuals will now need to work together to begin the important and challenging tasks essential to stabilizing Puerto Rico’s fiscal situation, restructuring its debt, and building a better future for the people of Puerto Rico.
The President appointed the following individuals:
These seven individuals bring a broad range of skills and expertise needed to tackle Puerto Rico’s complex challenges and put the future of the Americans citizens in Puerto Rico first. A majority of the board members are Puerto Rican, reflecting the President’s commitment to ensure that Puerto Ricans are well represented on the Board. All board members were carefully vetted, as required under PROMESA, to ensure that there were no current financial conflicts of interests that could interfere with the integrity of their service on the board.
The Board will only be successful if it can create an open, transparent process to the people and Government of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s elected leaders remain responsible for initiating and driving economic policy. The Governor of Puerto Rico, who also serves as an ex officio member on the board, is responsible for developing Puerto Rico’s multi-year fiscal plan and annual budgets, and the Legislature of Puerto Rico must pass the budget and the laws required to implement the budget. The Board then has the responsibility under PROMESA to certify fiscal plans and budgets, and designate critical projects to aid in investment in infrastructure on the island. Once the Board has certified that Puerto Rico has achieved market access for borrowing at reasonable interest rates and produced four consecutive years of balanced budgets, the board will —by law— terminate permanently.
While PROMESA is just a first step, it presents an important opportunity for Puerto Rico to chart a new course and make a fresh start. We all have more work to do to make sure that the people of Puerto Rico receive the healthcare they deserve and the good jobs and economic opportunities they need to build a better future for their children. To achieve that, Congress must take additional action. For one, Congress must address Puerto Rico’s inadequate treatment under the federal Medicaid program, because there is no viable path forward for Puerto Rico’s economy without action on healthcare. Congress should also create a federally-financed, locally-administered Earned Income Tax Credit, which has time and again proved to be an important and impactful action to support growth and incentivize work.
In the meantime, the Administration will continue its ongoing efforts to accelerate economic growth on the island. In recent months, the Administration has designated Roosevelt Roads in northeastern Puerto Rico as a federal “Promise Zone,” unlocked more than $400 million annually in federal funds to sustain work on infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico that otherwise risked becoming stalled, and taken steps to lower prescription drug costs for the 1.6 million Medicaid enrollees.
Now is the time to build the foundation for a stronger future. Success is only possible if we all work together to help Puerto Rico flourish, because a strong Puerto Rico is vital to America’s success.