Salvation Army in Puerto Rico impacted by debt crisis

By Vivian Lopez –

Poor fiscal climate leads to fewer grants designated for social causes.

The Salvation Army in Puerto Rico is experiencing firsthand the consequences of the commonwealth’s $70 billion in debt.

A study released in January titled “Reconstructing a Destructured Economy,” by José J. Villamil, notes recent downward trends in the Puerto Rican population and economy. It estimates a decrease in population from 3.8 million in 2000 to 2.8 million by 2030, and states that 250,000 jobs have been lost since 2006, bringing the unemployment rate to 12.5 percent in 2015. According to the study, “what has happened in the economy over the past five decades is a collapse of the capacity to generate growth.”

Leslie Ortiz Montes, public relations and events director for The Salvation Army Puerto Rico, said The Salvation Army has experienced a decrease in government approvals for grants and proposals designated for social causes.

Yet, The Salvation Army receives funding, she said, through special allocations by the Puerto Rico legislature.

“For the first time [the legislature] established a collaborative alliance between The Salvation Army and its offices of legislative donations and help to its citizens,” Montes said, adding that the Army has not yet seen an increase in demand for services.

“We infer that this could be due to the large migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States in search of a better future after losing their jobs,” she said.

“For the past 53 years and way before the crisis, The Salvation Army has served the island’s community with the same commitment through its 11 centers,” Montes said, noting services from youth music classes, to psychological and clinical support for crime victims. “We will continue doing this as our resources permit and as long as there are people who need it.”

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