Confirming financial overseers is crucial for Puerto Rico's continued rebuilding

Confirming financial overseers is crucial for Puerto Rico's continued rebuilding
© RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Puerto Rico has seen its share of trouble in recent years. Hurricanes have left incredible destruction on the island, economic development is always a critical issue, and years of financial mismanagement have taken its toll on local government. All of this carries over to the ability of the private sector to create growth and opportunity for 3.2 million Puerto Ricans on the island — all American citizens.

Although partisan bickering caused an unfortunate delay of passage in Congress, the president signed a $19 billion recovery package, with $600 million of this package allocated for nutritional assistance and other necessities for Puerto Rico.

The bad news is that ongoing issues with fiscal and financial stability remain an obstacle to economic progress for Puerto Rico.

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In 2017, legislation called the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was enacted to address the billions of dollars of crushing debt to the island. Under PROMESA, a fiscal oversight board was established to, among other things, ensure that resources sent to the island were disbursed properly to pay debts and that all efforts to expedite the reconciliation process were conducted in the most efficient way possible, including managing agreements between the island and its creditors and providing a fiscal framework for better government operation.

Unfortunately, after a court case that was filed by creditors against the government, the court ruled that members of the oversight board must be reappointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE and confirmed by the Senate before they can get back to work. The White House has said it will ask the Senate to confirm the board’s current members.

To continue to make some progress and keep the ongoing issues in check, it would be wise for the Senate to adhere to a timely confirmation process that meets the court’s July 15 deadline.

With the key problems that drove Congress to pass PROMESA not yet solved, a failure to advance the important work of the oversight board will be harmful to the economic prospects for the people on the island, especially as they continue to recover from hurricanes that demolished infrastructure and left many communities without electricity, clean water and prescription medicines for months. While the situation has improved, a lack of progress would severely hinder or erase these gains.

The lack of a properly functioning oversight board would put residents in the precarious position of again being forced to pay for the mistakes of politicians and bureaucrats. Cuts in municipal services, public safety and education are likely on the horizon.

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The entire country benefits from a strong Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans consistently have enlisted in the military at high rates, and more than 10,000 active duty military personnel from Puerto Rico currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

Thought leaders on the island are considering ways to make the island a business gateway to South America — a proposition with enormous economic potential.

Conversely, if the White House and Senate do not act before the financial oversight board’s extension runs out, the entire country stands to lose from a situation that either does not improve or worsens. Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and all American taxpayers would be hurt from its continued fiscal and economic instability.

The right move now is for the Senate to take up those nominations as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the situation in Puerto Rico will be a thorn that threatens to harm opportunities for Americans on the island as well as taxpayers on the mainland.

Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a public policy advocacy organization that promotes liberty, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. Follow on Twitter @MarioHLopez.