House Natural Resources Committee Democratic Report Shows How Major Spending Cuts in Puerto Rico Have Left the Island Vulnerable to Zika

Tucson, Ariz. – The House Natural Resources Committee staff, led by Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), released a report today showing that devastating budget cuts imposed in the wake of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion financial crisis have left Puerto Rico vulnerable to the Zika virus. As Congress considers legislation to help the 3.5 million American citizens living on the island emerge from this humanitarian crisis, it is clear that further cuts could be dangerous and cost more than they would save.

After taking a $135 million cut in the last five years, the Puerto Rico Department of Health is now faced with trying to control a rapidly growing outbreak of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe to fatal health impacts. The cost of screens for public housing and public schools alone are $110 million. If uncontrolled, Zika is estimated to infect one out of every four of Puerto Rico’s residents within the year, erode one of the island’s strongest economic sectors, and drive the spread of the disease to the mainland.

The island’s ability to cope with the effects of the Zika virus has also been compromised. The federal government’s annual underfunding of Medicaid by billions of dollars has led one doctor to leave Puerto Rico every day on average.  Yet, heath care costs for just one year of new cases of Zika-induced microcephaly are expected to be over $2 billion.

“We have heard from opponents of this legislation that the real solution to restructure some of Puerto Rico’s debt is for the Commonwealth to just cut spending even more deeply,” Grijalva said. “This report demonstrates that calls for more cuts, while they might be easy to make, are actually irresponsible and dangerous.” 

The full report is available at, http://1.usa.gov/1NVALLr

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