In a letter sent to US President Joe Biden, 20 major Puerto Rico and US religious leaders urged actions on disaster relief, job creation and a legal move to aid people on the heavily indebted island.
“Please immediately instruct the Department of Justice to withdraw the suit filed by the previous administration, that blocks $2.3 billion in annual Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. About 300,000 poor and vulnerable US citizens with disabilities are critically impacted,” wrote the religious leaders representing major religious institutions from Puerto Rico and the United States.
“We look forward to working with you so Puerto Rico can emerge with renewed resilience from our debt and child poverty crises, challenges with ongoing natural disasters and the impacts of the pandemic.”
The letter also requests that Biden implement measures to return manufacturing pharmaceutical jobs to Puerto Rico to help in the fight against COVID. Actions to reduce the island’s 60 per cent child poverty rate were noted in the letter from the religious leaders.
“Debt and disasters mired Puerto Rico in multiple crises, and then COVID-19 hit,” stated Eric LeCompte the director of Jubilee USA, the organisation that coordinated the letter with Puerto Rico and US religious leaders. “The White House and Congress can move forward critical actions to address the crises facing Puerto Rico.”
The heads of US and Puerto Rico churches signed the letter representing Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical churches. The 20 signers include leaders of the National and Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities, the General Bible Society and Jubilee USA Network. Metropolitan Archbishop Roberto O González Nieves OFM of San Juan de Puerto Rico was among the signees.
Since 2015, religious leaders pressed Republican and Democratic White Houses and Congressional leaders to address the island’s debt, child poverty and jobs crises.
In 2017, after hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated the island, US and Puerto Rico religious leaders included disaster relief in their advocacy efforts.