Puerto Rico gets bankruptcy protection but not all are celebrating
Puerto Rico files for bankruptcy protection.
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According to the New York Times, on Wednesday, Puerto Rico’s local government made a move that was months in the making - filing for bankruptcy protection from lawsuits filed by hedge funds and financial institutions over the $123 billion debt deemed un-payable by the U.S. government.
But with the protection from bankruptcy officials finally falling into place, the signs of unrest and uncertainty from business owners, retirees and public servants who are caught in the middle are still very present on the island.
Two days before the bankruptcy protection was filed, a protest for “May Day” or International Worker’s Day included tens of thousands of American citizens expressing their frustrations over a cost of living that is becoming increasingly unlivable.
Many workers on the island feel they are being hit from all sides, whether it’s the cost of healthcare, unemployment, or a dwindling pension. annual Christmas bonus and pay for unused sick time make for wistful memories.
But newly appointed governor, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, stated that his intentions were that no one particular group was hit especially hard and spread the financial costs amongst the island but he was also clear that low-income people who were uninsured and had limited access to health care and parents with children in public schools would be the most vulnerable as the debt is addressed in the coming months.
But not only will student’s education suffer, the teachers will suffer too.
Recent plans released by the Puerto Rican government state that teachers may see a cut in hours and pay by up to two days a month or 24 days this coming school year.
In addition to a closure of 184 schools on the island, the education secretary announced the cuts to teachers actions on Wednesday.
But other city services are taking cuts and upping costs too. Several government agencies are under review and at risk for cuts in government funding while fines for parking and other traffic violations have doubled.
“There has to be sacrifice everywhere,” Governor Rosselló said to the New York Times in an interview. “We have been very clear about what that sacrifice is.”
The son of one of Puerto Rico’s former governors who is credited with guiding Puerto Rico into its current debt situation, Rosselló is facing accusations that he broke his campaign promise by seeking protection from the lawsuits and the sacrifice is only being felt by a few.
One mother, Iris D. Matos, told the New York Times a very different story, “There isn’t a single sector that hasn’t been hit: The older people are worried about their retirements, the parents have had their hours cut, and the young people are on strike at the university, and the kids are about to see their schools closed,” Ms. Matos, 64, said. “They are spreading the pain, but to only one class of people: us.”
And the data supports this claim, Puerto Rico’s workforce dropped by 300,000 in the past decade according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and coupled with the mass exodus to Florida and other areas in the United States mainland, the symptoms of the pain felt are clear.
But still there are some who are dedicated to the place they’ve called home for so long.
“I’m going to stay here, even if I make only $1,” said Bernardo Rivera, a 75-year-old bus driver to the Times.