Jessica Galarza is one of thousands who has fled economic adversity in Puerto Rico to begin a new life on the mainland. She chose to begin that life in Manchester.
But Galarza did not show up at U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s roundtable discussion on the Puerto Rican debt crisis to talk about her new life. She came to talk about the one she left after she lost her job several months ago.
Two days after an unprecedented court hearing began what could be a years-long bankruptcy-like process for Puerto Rico, Blumenthal met in Hartford Friday with current and former island residents, state legislators and advocates for change to hear their concerns and, when possible, answer their questions.
Blumenthal said Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States are “one community,” even if some perceive the island’s residents to be outsiders.
“They look at me as though I’m describing another country,” Blumenthal said. “I feel like I represent you and represent the people of Puerto Rico indirectly in this issue.”
Puerto Rico has $123 billion in obligations it says it cannot afford to pay. More than half of it is bond debt. The remaining portion is attributable to pension costs for retired public-sector workers.
In recent years, the island’s government has cut back on nearly all non-essential services in an attempt to keep making payments to its bond investors. It even has made dramatic cuts to services many argue are essential, such as health care and education.
Eventually, Puerto Rico ran out of services to cut. On May 3, under a new federal provision approved last year, the island territory declared a form of bankruptcy. The first court hearing was Wednesday.
It was the culmination of a decade-long recession that has demoralized a generation of Puerto Ricans, who have faced an increasing cost of living and a deteriorating quality of life. The Pew Research Center reported in March that the island’s population has declined by 400,000 since its peak of 3.8 million in 2004. Nearly all the change can be attributed to outmigration.
While many Puerto Rican natives have moved to cities in Florida and New York, some have come to Connecticut as well. People of Puerto Rican heritage now make up nearly 8 percent of the state’s population – and more than half of its….
To read full article: https://ctmirror.org/2017/05/19/connecticut-feels-the-human-fallout-of-puerto-rican-debt-crisis/