80 Organizations Call on Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Board to Release Billions in Cash Reserve to Help During COVID-19 Crisis

Mar 23, 2020
11:55 AM

What advocates are sharing as a possible scenario to help fund Puerto Rico during the COVID-19 crisis.

The following open letter being send to members of Congress was shared with Latino Rebels on Monday morning. It is signed by 80 organizations who are calling for the Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to take on more dramatic measures regarding the COVID-19 crisis:

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to you as organizations in Puerto Rico and stateside that are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the island. Given Puerto Rico’s crumbling healthcare infrastructure and aging population at greater risk of complications, the spread of this virus could result in an unprecedented human catastrophe. Congress should therefore direct the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to allow the Government of Puerto Rico to use the more than $9 billion in funds destined for debt payments to instead be used to support Puerto Rican families in this moment of crisis.

Congress, through the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), made the FOMB the trustee of the Government of Puerto Rico. Over the last three years, Puerto Rico has been hit by a series of natural disasters—hurricanes María and Irma, ongoing earthquakes, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.  These disasters have exacerbated an economic crisis, created by decades of budget cuts and neglect, that had left the island with $129 billion in debt and a crumbling infrastructure.

Over the last three years, the FOMB has forced brutal austerity measures that have further crippled health, educational, and other public infrastructures. These severe cuts created a budget surplus that has ballooned to a staggering $9 billion cash reserve as of February 28, 2020 —the same size as Puerto Rico’s entire operating budget in 2017— up from $1.8 billion in December 2018.

The federal government has failed to disburse billions of dollars allocated toward a just recovery to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane María. Recent earthquakes have compounded Puerto Rico’s distress. Estimated damages reported by hardest-hit local governments on the island exceed $1.4 billion, and the power authority needs significant investment to rebuild one of its main power plants by this summer in order to stabilize service for millions.

Only two months after the earthquakes, with hundreds still living in tents in the south, the island faces yet another disaster.  Today, hundreds of thousands are in their homes, struggling to put food on the table for their families and not knowing when their next paycheck will come. To make matters worse, 20.7% of Puerto Rico’s population is over the age of 65, which means that any response that does not provide the necessary support to the island could result in thousands of deaths.

In accordance with §§ 201(b)(1)(B) and 201(b)(1)(J) of PROMESA, it is the responsibility of the FOMB to account for all government services and capital expenditures that must be provided in order to adequately respond to CODIV-19. This includes providing community driven investments in: (1) ensuring free testing and healthcare services; (2) instituting a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs; (3) making sure everyone has access to food; (4) providing school children with the tools necessary to continue their education from home and; (5) significant investments in clean, local, sustainable energy sources to stabilize service for millions.

The fiscal plan should be revised to reflect these expenditures instead of ever-increasing austerity measures. We must prioritize these critical investments in the public health and safety of Puerto Ricans over debt repayments. Continuing to prioritize austerity measures for the sake of debt repayment will undoubtedly result in preventable deaths. Upon certification of a revised fiscal plan, these funds must be made readily available through any necessary legal and budgetary actions.

For all of these reasons, we believe that Congress should direct the Fiscal Management Oversight Board to allow the Government of Puerto Rico to use more than $9 billion in funds destined for debt payments to be used to support Puerto Rican families in this moment of crisis. Not doing so could spell disaster for hundreds of thousands.

Thank you in advance for your support.


  1. 32BJ SEIU
  2. Action NC
  3. Alianza Por Puerto Rico – Massachusetts
  4. Alianza Americas
  5. Alianza for Progress
  6. Asociación Nacional de Escuelas de Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico
  7. Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios (APPU)
  8. Ayuda Legal
  9. Boricuas de Corazón Inc
  10. Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora
  11. Borisquad
  12. Cancel the Debt
  13. CASA
  14. Central American Resource Center
  15. Centro Para Una Nueva Gobernanza
  16. Central State Latino Caucus
  17. Center for Popular Democracy
  18. Chelsea Rising/ LEAPS
  19. Chicago Puerto Rican Agenda
  20. Churches United For Fair Housing
  21. Code Pink
  22. Construyamos Otro Acuerdo
  23. Colectiva Feminista en Construcción
  24. Colectivo Ilé
  25. Colegio de Profesionales del Trabajo Social de Puerto Rico
  26. Concilio de Iglesias de Puerto Rico (CIPR)
  27. Defend Puerto Rico
  28. Democratic Socialist of America
  29. Democratic Socialist of America Palm Beach County
  30. Diáspora en Acción
  31. Diaspora en Resistencia
  32. DSA Palm Beach County
  33. DSA Boricua Socialist Diaspora Caucus
  34. Hedge Clippers
  35. Instituto para el Desarrollo de las Comunidades y SIEMPREVIVAS.
  36. El Puente-ELAC
  37. Espacios Abiertos
  38. Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico
  39. Fideicomiso para el Desarrollo de Río Piedras
  40. Frente Ciudadano para la Auditoría de la Deuda
  42. La Clara
  43. LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  44. Make the Road CT
  45. Make the Road NJ
  46. Make the Road NV
  47. Make the Road NY
  48. Make the Road PA
  49. Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
  50. Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana
  51. Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres
  52. Mujeres de Islas
  53. National Boricua Human Rights Network (NBHRN)
  54. National Puerto Rican Agenda
  55. New York Communities for Change
  56. Northwest Boricua Resistance
  57. Organize Florida & Pa’lante por Mas
  58. Organización Puertorriqueña de la Mujer Trabajadora (OPMT)
  59. Our Revolution Puerto Rico
  60. Philly Boricuas
  61. Philadelphia Chapter of the National Puerto Rican Agenda
  62. Power 4 Puerto Rico
  63. Proyecto María
  64. Public Accountability Initiative
  65. Puerto Ricans In Action
  66. Puerto Rico Me Llama
  67. QLatinx
  68. Sembrando Sentido
  69. SEIU
  70. SEIU Local 1
  71. SPT SEIU Local 1996
  72. Strong Economy For All Coalition
  73. Taller Salud
  74. Taller Puertorriqueño
  75. UNETE
  76. Urbe Apie
  77. UTIER
  78. VAMOS y VAMOS en la Diáspora
  79. Vamos4PR
  80. Women’s March Florida