Senate Democrats finally introduced legislation aimed to help Puerto Rico's $70 billion debt crisis.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut announced the "The Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act" (S. 1774), which would grant the island commonwealth the authority to allow its municipalities and public utilities to adjust their debts through bankruptcy court supervision.

The bill would give Puerto Rico the same authority as the main 50 states, which also allows public utilities and municipalities to restructure their debt under the supervision of bankruptcy court.

"This measure is vital to prevent a humanitarian and financial catastrophe -- a clearly avoidable disaster," said Blumenthal in a statement released on Wednesday. "Creditors, investors, ordinary citizens, all will be harmed if the Congress fails to act. This measure is not a bailout -- involving not a dime of federal funds. It enables an orderly, rational restructuring of debt, instead of a financial free for all and potential free fall."

As Latin Post reported, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla revealed the island's current debt is "unpayable" and its size impedes the commonwealth from improving. According to the governor, the island "inherited" nearly $70 billion of debt -- a figure he claimed "is essentially the same" as two years ago, but he denied allegations that the debt is solely the result of loans.

"These are not easy times that we have had to live," said Garcia Padilla. "But if we battle together, against any enemy, against any crisis, united, Puerto Rico will prevail."

"We can either do the right thing and give Puerto Rico the bankruptcy option it needs and deserves, or we can risk a disaster on the island and billions in bailout payments later," said Schumer. "Allowing Puerto Rico's municipalities to go through the bankruptcy process, just like other American municipalities, is the right way to begin untangling the fiscal mess on the island, and I hope both parties will come together to get this done."

According to Puerto Rico's congressman, Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member with the official title of Resident Commissioner, the island's 3.5 million inhabitants must rely on U.S.-mainland lawmakers in helping solve issues such as the debt crisis.

"[A] number of senators stepped up to the plate. They did so because this bill clearly is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do, both for the economy of Puerto Rico and for the broader U.S. economy," said Pierluisi, who expressed gratitude to Blumenthal and Schumer.

García Padilla recognized the senators' support in easing the debt crisis. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Puerto Rico governor said, "I'm hopeful that the debate in Congress will propel this bill to passage with bipartisan support. Chapter 9 is an option that all states have at their disposal for their municipalities and public corporations and there is no reason why Puerto Rico, its creditors and its citizens should not be afforded the same protections."

He added, "Action by Congress on Chapter 9 is necessary so that together we can solve this crisis.... [Wednesday's] efforts are encouraging and I will continue to enact cost cutting and job creation measures in Puerto Rico. I had great meetings yesterday with several members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Blumenthal, and look forward to working with them on the solutions that address the structural barriers to our economic progress."

The bill has also received co-sponsor support from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bill Nelson of Florida, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.


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