16:48 GMT17 May 2021
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    US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said that in the event of default in Puerto Rico, a judge could immediately order Puerto Rico to pay creditors over essential services such as health, education, and public safety and this could force Puerto Rico to lay off police officers, shut down public transit, or close a hospital.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US territory of Puerto Rico is facing police layoffs and hospital closures if the US Congress fails to enact debt-restructuring legislation prior to a July 1 deadline, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday.

    "In the event of default, and if creditor lawsuits are successful, a judge could immediately order Puerto Rico to pay creditors over essential services such as health, education, and public safety," Lew said. "This could force Puerto Rico to lay off police officers, shut down public transit, or close a hospital."

    Puerto Rico owes creditors more than $70 billion, but July 1 payments on $2 billion of that debt are especially critical because the latter is constitutionally prioritized, the letter explained. Failure to pay could authorize a judge to order immediate payments, which would force the closure of public institutions.

    Early in June, the House passed a compromise bill, with an overwhelming bipartisan vote, that would give Puerto Rico tools to recover without a federal bailout. With four days remaining left before the July 1 deadline, the Senate has yet to take up the measure.

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    Tags:
    default, Mitch McConnell, Puerto Rico, US
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