• The Star Staff

Mayors take demand to stop cuts to US Congress

By John McPhaul


Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández announced Wednesday that after a recent visit by a delegation of mayors to Washington, D.C., nine Democratic and Republican members of Congress asked the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to stop cuts to the island’s municipalities.

“This demand made today [Wednesday] by the members of Congress is key to the defense of funds destined for essential services for the neediest families and communities throughout Puerto Rico,” Hernández said. “I will not rest until the FOMB desists from taking one more penny from us.”

The mayor of Villalba pointed out in particular the danger that the elimination of the Equalization Fund would represent.

Among the U.S. legislators who made the request to the oversight board are Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Sen. Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), among others.

“The elimination of this Fund is to take away services from the people who need it most,” Hernández said. “This social justice mechanism has worked for years and we have municipalities, both associated [Popular Democratic Party-led] and federated [New Progressive Party-led], whose annual budget is made up of 50 percent or more of this Fund. Eliminating it would be an attack against Puerto Ricans on issues such as health, social services, care for the elderly, sports for youth and maintenance of facilities, among others.”

The joint letter from the members of Congress, addressed to David Skell, as chairman of the oversight board, and dated Tuesday, was also signed by Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“All these federal legislators have great power in the federal capital, especially in the White House, because of the sectors they represent, their contacts in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and above all, they have a commitment to Puerto Rico and her future,” Hernández said. “They clearly state in the letter to Skeel that the proposed elimination of the Equalization Fund would mean the closure of many municipalities. That is a reality that we must avoid at all cost for the good of citizens.”