In his weekly address to the nation, President Barack Obama covered the growing economic crisis in Puerto Rico, which is also facing the Zika Virus. Puero Rico’s 3.5 million inhabitants are all American citizens, but the commonwealth has not recovered from an economic recession like the rest of the U.S. has. The island is in the middle of a $70 billion debt crisis.
Obama noted that the Puerto Rican government has to spend a third of its tax revenue on debt. The government is facing a July 1 deadline when it is supposed to make a $2 billion debt payment that it can’t make.
“There is only one way for Puerto Rico to pull itself out of this crisis – and that’s by restructuring its debt and finding a sustainable fiscal path toward growth and opportunity for its people. But here’s the problem,” Obama said. “Right now, Puerto Rico doesn’t have the tools it needs to restructure its debt – tools available elsewhere in America.”
The address came just after the House did pass a bill that will help Puerto Rico, but it still doesn’t provide any federal money for it, reports NPR. The bill, which still has to be passed by the Senate, does create a financial control board that can help restructure the debt payments. In his address, Obama urged the Senate to pass it.
“This bill is not a perfect solution – nobody’s saying it is,” Obama said. “That’s what happens in divided government. But it’s the only option on the table to save Puerto Rico from spiraling out of control. And that’s exactly what would happen if Congress fails to do its job.”