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Through the years, Puerto Ricans have been living the era of Economic, Social, and Political Crisis in the island. Most of the society does not pay attention to those situations or to the problems presented. All the three types of crisis connect at one point. Through my proposal I want to explain and expose the cause and effect of two situations that Puerto Rico has and is going through, and those are the increase of the salaries of different city mayors, and the abuse of those who “need” financial assistance.
On February 23, 2009, the Autonomous Municipalities Act was created in order to ensure more control over the different mayors’ decision. It was set out in Article 3.012 of the Act, the concerns dealing with the authorization of increases in salaries of mayors. In this part of the Act, Hernández (2009) states the following:
“A mayor’s salary will be established depending on the time of its term and the population of his municipality. A mayor, in his/her first term, can earn a salary of three thousand ($ 3,000.00) to five thousand dollars ($ 5,000.00)… In a municipality with a population over one hundred thousand (100,000) occupants, one Mayor re-elected may earn a salary of five thousand ($ 5,000.00) to nine thousand dollars ($ 9,000.00).”
A serious problem with this Act is that it provides too much freedom or autonomy to those municipality leaders who do not have the capacity of attending in a correct manner the financial needs. A couple of examples to support this statement are the case of the mayor from Villalba, who was conducted in an investigation for using the money to go on a trip to New Jersey; the increase in the salary of the mayor of Rio Grande, Eduardo Rivera Correa, from $3,900 to $7,500 because he thought that the salary he earned at first was not enough for his living expenses. According to Fonseca (2013), “the ones who can lower the salary of the mayors are the legislators, and they will not want to confront the mayor of the municipalities. But, how can these mayors say that their salary is not enough for their cost of living when the income per capita of any citizen is of $1,600 to no more than $3,000 monthly.” He does have a point. Most mayors do not have the expenses that most of the citizens have. If the money they receive was used to better the status of their municipality then it would be understandable that their income would be increased, but the facts do not prove that. In the case of the mayor of Rio Grande, it was found that the municipality had $2.2 million dollars in deficit in 2010-11, after the increase of his income.
The mayors are one problem, but the society is another. Puerto Rico provides financial assistance for those who needed. But the question would be, do they truly need that help? One of the most famous helps that the government gives is the Nutritional Assistance Program also known as PAN, which is a family credit card that receives a monthly payment where part of that money can only be used for grocery shopping. Out of 3.7 million people that compose the population, 1.5 million receive this help. Those 640,000 families receive a payment of $150 up to $650 monthly, where 25% of that money can be taken as cash for other expenses. Most of the people that receive this financial assistance live in public housing or as we Puerto Ricans call them the residenciales. In 2009, the Project 894 was presented which established the “Special Law for Justified Tariffs for Utilities for Public Housing” that presented the ways the different funds would be used for the maintenance of the residential. The funds provided $70,438,000 were $68,728,000 came from federal funds, and the other $1,710,000 came from loans and bonds. Most of that money can be used for the improvement of other difficulties like for schools, roads, community programs, etc. Those people, besides receiving the financial assistance they get, they live in the public housing with fixed monthly payments in two appeals: water and electricity. Their monthly payments on water is only $19.71, and on electricity just $30, which in reality most of them do not pay because they put a trap o better known as un pillo de luz y agua which gives them the “privilege” of having no expenses.
All of these problems stated have an effect on the future society, especially on college students and the ones who soon are going to go into college. Although most of the college students receive financial aid like scholarships and grants, most of them try to find a job during their first four years or their bachelor years so they can start saving money for their masters and doctor’s degree. There is the problem. Society today is suffering a crisis of unemployment where the facts state that 30% of the populations of 15 to 24 years old are unemployed because most of the jobs presented today have high requirements that most of them do not have, like having a bachelor’s degree in the specific branch the job asks for.
The solutions I want to present are simple but require more effort in the work of those who control the salaries of the mayors, which would be the legislature, and those who control the financial assistance, which would be the Family Department. The solution I provide is that do not approve a request without first making a background investigation of the person. Investigate the cause or reasons the person wants that money, what that person wants it for, how will they use it, etc. If the background investigation presents valid reasons then approve the request, but do not stop there. Keep a watch on that person to see if he/she is truly worthy of maintaining that support or financial assistance. If after a month or two the person shows bad use of the money, then cancel that support and give it to somebody else. But stop wasting money on things, in this case people that do not deserve it because they do not know how to properly use the money they are receiving.
Money is not something to give away especially when the country is suffering an economic crisis. The economic abuse that the people, from the poor to the ones in the power, have over the money that the government does not have would be consider the biggest part of the base of the economic problem in Puerto Rico. The government should take better control over the money that is left or that they receive, and learn how to handle it that would benefit the people and the country’s status. But the society needs to learn that they cannot abuse of the money they receive, because they have the “privilege” of receiving that financial aid when they do not truly need it. There are families out there who NEED that help but they are not among the poor, they are instead hidden among the middle class of the society.
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