WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a tool for fiscal responsibility, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2016. PROMESA was signed to help Puerto Rico restructure its debt and achieve fiscal responsibility. In order to do this, the act created the financial oversight and management board.
But some say PROMESA and the Oversight Board it’s hurting working class Puerto Ricans.
“The number one issue that we have presented to the members of Congress and the White House has been the urgency to dismantle “La Junta”, the fiscal board in Puerto Rico, and the law that supports it— the law PROMESA. This oversight fiscal board has completely dismantled the laws that protect our rights as workers, to collective bargaining, in addition to protecting healthcare benefits for workers. That’s why we say, ‘Fight yes, surrender no!’” said Union President of Central Puertorriqueña de Trabajadores (CPT), Emilio Nieves Torres, during the press conference.
Puerto Rican union leaders say the law is limiting collective bargaining and harming pensions, workers’ rights and their access to healthcare.
“And it has cut our pensions mostly in half,” said Liza Fournier Córdova, President of the National Union of Education Workers (UNETE).
Fournier says PROMESA is having an adverse impact on educators, like herself.
“People in Puerto Rico have to decide if they buy food or they pay the bill, the electric bill, the water bill,” said Fournier. “Teachers, like me, have to have two or three jobs.”
Fournier also says funding cuts for higher education are causing more students to leave Puerto Rico.
“We’re preparing our children, our kids to work for Puerto Rico, and they have to leave because they don’t find decent jobs,” said Fournier.
Congress included a specific section in PROMESA directing how and when the Oversight Board terminates. Section 209 of PROMESA states that the board will terminate once certain mandates are completed:
First, there need to be at least four consecutive budgets developed by the government- in accordance with modified accrual accounting standards- and expenditures not exceeding revenues during each fiscal year. Second, access to short-term and long-term credit markets at reasonable interest rates.
Page 25 of the Oversight Board’s 2023 Annual Report addresses its termination. It reads, in part:
“Having achieved considerable progress, including the successful restructuring of most of Puerto Rico’s debt, the Oversight Board is starting to more closely evaluate the parameters and metrics required to certify its dissolution and to restore financial controls to the elected Government of Puerto Rico.”
According to the Oversight Board, Puerto Rico faced more than $72 billion in debt before PROMESA.
A spokesperson for the Oversight Board responded to our request for comment, saying: “While the oversight board must certify that the requirements are satisfied, the government bears the responsibility for completing the work necessary to restore fiscal responsibility and meet the termination requirements… The oversight board is committed to working with the government to fulfill those statutory requirements.”