Coalition Sounds Warning on Growing Puerto Rico Debt Crisis and January 1st Default

Debt Crisis Linked to Same Interest Rate Swap Deals Held by Illinois, Chicago, and Chicago Public Schools. Group Demands Immediate Financial Relief.

On the eve of Three Kings Day, a diverse coalition of groups including Puerto Rican community organizations, labor unions, and community activists are coming together to draw attention to the Puerto Rican debt crisis and the dire implications for Illinois, Puerto Rico, and working families across the country.

WHAT: Press conference calling on the federal government to intervene in the Puerto Rican debt crisis by providing financial relief and renegotiating with Wall Street creditors. Participants will also make connection between school closings in Puerto Rico and school closings in Chicago and point out how the same Wall Street banks and hedge funds that caused the crisis in Puerto Rico are setting up a parallel scenario in Illinois.

WHEN: TUESDAY, January 5th, 2016 4:00 p.m.

WHERE: Roberto Clemente Community Academy (front lobby), 1147 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

WHO:

Saqib Bhatti, Director of the ReFund America Project & Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

Fernando Grillo, National Puerto Rican Agenda, Steering Committee Member

Carlos Rosa, 35th Ward Alderman

Maria Cosme, Chicago Teachers Union

Community leaders, social service providers, union members, and advocates.

WHY:  Together Wall Street Banks, Hedge Funds, and US Federal Policies have created an unsustainable fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico. The island’s dire financial situation can be seen in it’s recent January 1st default on a $36 million payment owed by the Infrastructure Financing Authority and a $1.4 million payment owed by the Public Finance Corporation. Without bankruptcy protection this default could trigger more disastrous austerity measures. Already Puerto Rico has laid off 30,000 public sector workers, jumped the sales tax from 7 to 11.5%, closed 150 schools and says it may have to close another 600 (nearly half of the 1,387 that currently remain) over the next five years.

Wall Street banks and hedge funds have attempted to profit from Puerto Rico’s financial woes by locking the island into predatory interest swap deals. These bad bank deals have cost Puerto Rico nearly $640 million. These are the same bad deals that many governmental entities found themselves locked into following the recession including the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and State of Illinois. The City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools together have either already paid or owe Wall Street firms like Bank of America $1.2 billion for these interest rate swaps. The state of Illinois, despite not having a budget, is scheduled to pay over $588 million to Wall Street banks. Meanwhile many social service providers across the state continue to not be paid and Chicago Public Schools is threatening 5,000 teacher layoffs. From San Juan to Chicago we need our representatives to negotiate these bad banks deals.

Grassroots Collaborative is Action Now, American Friends Service Committee – Great Lakes Region, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Teachers Union, Enlace Chicago, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, ONE Northside, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois Indiana