Florida representatives urge Congress to help financially strapped Puerto Rico


  • Monivette Cordeiro

Florida's Puerto Rican representatives are urging Congress to help the financially struggling island by allowing its municipalities and public utilities to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy relief. 

Congress has previously opposed pleas from other Puerto Rican representatives and activists to allow the island, which is a U.S. commonwealth and whose residents are U.S. citizens, to use bankruptcy protections permitted for states and create a comprehensive debt repayment plan. Earlier this summer, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Padilla declared that the territory had $72 billion in "unpayable" debt and was close to an economic death spiral. Puerto Ricans are currently fleeing the financial crisis in mass numbers to get to Central Florida. 

Florida Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, filed a House Memorial, HM 601, and was joined by: John Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Victor Torres, D-Orlando; David Santiago, R-Deltona; Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando; and Shervin Jones, D-West Park, according to a press release from Rep. Bob Cortes' office. A memorial is used by the state Legislature to express its views to the federal government and is voted on like a bill. 

Similar legislation, known as SM 798, was filed by Florida Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, in the Senate on the same day. 

“As the language in HM 601 states, Florida and Puerto Rico are closely connected culturally and as a trading partner, so this is important to us personally and as a matter of economic importance,” Cortes says in the press release. “It is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue of doing what’s right.”

Moody's Investors Service, a credit rating agency, recently reported that the mass exodus of Puerto Ricans to Florida was benefitting the credit strength of Orange County and Hillsborough County. 

"The employed Puerto Rican population increased by a significant 17.7% in Orange County and 31.1% in Hillsborough County from 2010 to 2014," the report says. "The influx has fed the counties' ongoing economic expansion, a credit positive." 

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