Mayors Federation warn of collapse of municipal services in coming months
SAN JUAN – The president of the Federation of Mayors of Puerto Rico, Carlos Molina Rodríguez, said Wednesday that as a consequence of the economic measures implemented by the government in recent months, the Municipal Revenue Collection Center (CRIM by its Spanish acronym) will not be able to pay remittances to the municipalities during the months of May and June.
“This creates an extremely complicated situation for more than 40 municipalities that may not have the resources to offer essential services to citizens. In addition, the conditions imposed by the [Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB)] for the liquidity of the municipalities when they were asked for a loan when income began to flow were too onerous and, in this case, the people are the ones who are hurt. We request and hope to meet with both the presidents of the legislative bodies and the Governor to discuss this delicate situation that will impact thousands of citizens,” Molina Rodríguez said in a statement.
Molina Rodríguez explained that, because the government determined that citizens do not have to pay CRIM until July, “that moratorium,” the mayor said, “caused there to be no liquidity in CRIM.”
Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez attributed the problem to a misunderstanding of the role municipalities play with regard to the island’s population.
“There is a lack of understanding by the Fiscal Oversight Board and the Central Governments about the role of municipalities. Therefore, the mayors recommend an in-depth and proper analysis of the functions and tasks of the municipalities, as well as of the handling of labor, fiscal and services rendered to the population,” she declared.
“Not receiving CRIM remittances in May and June will affect essential services such as garbage collection, health services, maintenance of recreational areas and green areas, cleaning and maintenance of primary, secondary and tertiary roads. Also, the preparedness and response to emergencies such as: Hurricanes, tremors, health crisis (COVID-19, Dengue), care and services for the elderly. It would affect the Safety and Protection of property and citizens and payroll. This would result in some small and medium-sized towns suffering an economic impact that could lead to the closure of small towns and the dismissal of employees. And, large municipalities would have to make significant reductions to their staff and the services they provide. This after all possible adjustments have been made. Municipalities exist to serve the people. If the resources that sustain them are eliminated, it is the citizens who will suffer the devastating impact that depriving services offered by the municipalities would cause,” Meléndez added.
According to CRIM Chairman Javier Carrasquillo, the collapse of the services provided by the municipalities is imminent under the current circumstances.
“There is no doubt that the municipalities face one of the most difficult periods in history. The COVID-19 emergency has caused an interruption in collections and insurance, a significant reduction in income. This will cause an imminent collapse of municipal services for some municipalities in the short term and others later, but in the end…it will be the people who will suffer the absence of services. No one in the FOMB seems to understand the seriousness of the situation and they continue…not considering a permanent solution such as Act 29,” said the also mayor of the municipality of Cidra.
“That the municipalities do not receive remittances for May and June would provoke an essential-services crisis in the midst of a situation as complex as the Island is experiencing that has been caused by the coronavirus. We demand that the Governor, together with her work team, look for an alternative so that services to citizens are not stopped and can continue to be provided as usual, especially now, when they are most needed,” said the mayor of the municipality of Naguabo, Noé Marcano.