The Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico hosted a presentation on Capitol Hill earlier this month entitled, “A Future of Child Poverty in Puerto Rico: How Much It Costs and What We Can Do About It.”
A panel of five experts, moderated by the Youth Development Institute’s Executive Director Amanda Rivera, reacted to the Institute’s plan to end child poverty in Puerto Rico and discussed how Congress can intervene to the group of Congressional staffers and Puerto Rican advocates in attendance. In her opening remarks, Rivera urged that the island’s long-term economic stability relies on promptly alleviating the issue of child poverty.
In addition to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, speakers on the panel included Mr. Eric LeCompte, Executive Director at Jubilee USA; Mr. Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus; Dr. María E. Enchautegui, Economist and Director of Research and Policy of the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico; Mr. Brayan Rosa, Public Policy Management; and Mrs. Natividad Flores, Grandmother and Community Leader.
Dr. Enchuategui discussed the $4 billion annual cost of child poverty on the island and stated that the 58% of children below the poverty line could be reduced to 37% in ten years with the proper actions. She explained that higher poverty levels lead to lower productivity and advised that it would be more costly to take no action on the issue than to solve it.
The Youth Development Institute’s proposal advocated for full access to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and maintaining the current level of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Puerto Rican families, as well as for the creation of other initiatives such as a universal child allowance or after-school, early childhood, and workforce development programs.
Resident Commissioner González Colón highlighted the importance of the CTC as a useful tool to help lift families out of poverty. She criticized the disparities with CTC between the mainland United States and Puerto Rico, as the third child and any children beyond that are eligible for the credit on the island. She discussed the EITC as another useful method to combat child poverty and encouraged attendees to fight for programs that can positively impact Puerto Rico’s long-term health and prosperity.
The panelists all expressed their support for the CTC and EITC, and many shared personal stories of the effects of poverty in Puerto Rico. Mr. Brayan Rosa highlighted potential programs beyond tax credits, specifically work training and early childhood programs, as additional policy recommendations and noted that these policies are part of a larger economic development strategy to boost the Puerto Rican economy.
The Youth Development Institute is taking its report and policy proposals to lawmakers and political candidates. They will continue to raise awareness will push for poverty initiatives to be included in policymakers’ plans.
The House of Representatives included CTC and EITC proposals in its Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, 2020, which cleared the House earlier this month and is pending Senate consideration.
Read the executive summary of the report here.
Read the full report here.