Puerto Rico Debt, Health Crises Addressed in Obama's New Budget Plan
To alleviate Puerto Rico's financial and health crises, President Barack Obama made a number of proposals for the commonwealth in his 2017 fiscal year budget.
According to the budget plan, Obama wants to provide Puerto Ricans with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax credit for low-to-moderate income workers.
As his budget plan acknowledged, Puerto Rico's economy declined by more than 10 percent since 2006 and encountered over 250,000 job losses. In addition, more than 45 percent of the island's residents, who are born as U.S. citizens, live in poverty. Puerto Rico also has an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, which is twice the mainland U.S. average.
Obama also recognized the Medicaid system in Puerto Rico is fundamentally different compared to the guidelines for the 50 states. He said the current different Medicaid standards resulted in lower quality in care and fewer benefits compared to the mainland U.S. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided the island with an additional $7.3 billion since July 1, 2011, the aforementioned fund is expected to run out by the end of 2019. In his budget plan, he proposes approximately $30 billion in Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico that would last for the next nine years.
The Puerto Rico Healthcare Crisis Coalition (PRHCC), an organization that has been calling on Washington to address the island's declining healthcare system, commended Obama on his proposal.
"We applaud President Obama for putting Puerto Rico on a path to parity on Medicaid Funding. While this is a step in the right direction, the federal government needs to quickly address the Island's underfunded Medicare program," said PRHCC President Dennis Rivera. "Saving the Medicare program is of particular importance as Puerto Rico's aging population continues to grow."
"At this crucial crossroads when the Island's healthcare system is on the verge of collapse, Congress needs to act swiftly and approve the budget's Medicaid measure for Puerto Rico," Rivera added. "We call on the same spirit of unity that got us this far as we renew our commitment and redouble our efforts on Congress and Medicare to avert the healthcare crisis at home."
In addition to the EITC and Medicaid funding, the budget proposal calls on Puerto Rico to reform its fiscal governance for improved transparency, but all while respecting the commonwealth's status and local autonomy. Obama also wants Puerto Rico to receive the necessary tools to restructure its financial liabilities under the guidelines of a federal court. The budget plan would help craft a broad legal framework for the financial liabilities restructure; the framework would also be used exclusively for fellow U.S. territories.
As Latin Post reported, Puerto Rico's debt has climbed to over $70 billion. Puerto Rico Gov. Alejando Garcia Padilla previously acknowledged that the island's request for congressional help is not a bailout but simply wants the "tools" to help restructure.
For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: email@example.com.
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