A trio of US lawmakers expressed their support of a Promise Zone application for the Local Redevelopment Authority for Roosevelt Roads that, if approved, would create a bridge between federal agencies and local leaders to boost the area’s economic activity and opportunities.
Promise Zones are high poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health and address other priorities identified by the community. Through the Promise Zone designation, communities will work directly with federal, state and local agencies to give local leaders proven tools to improve the quality of life in some of the most vulnerable areas.
In a letter to the U.S. Secretaries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) stressed the island’s eastern region’s economic disadvantage.
“When the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station ceased operations in 2004, unemployment in nearby towns increased dramatically. The station’s closure particularly affected the neighboring towns of Ceiba, Naguabo and Fajardo, resulting in the loss of an estimated $300 million in economic activity,” the lawmakers said. “Unfortunately, the effect of the closure on the local area persists to this day.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average monthly unemployment rate from December 2014 to December 2015 for these towns is high: Ceiba (13.7 percent), Naguabo (13.5 percent) and Fajardo (14.9 percent). These high levels of joblessness significantly exceed the unemployment rate during the same period for San Juan (7.7 percent), they noted.
The collaboration possibilities through Promise Zone designations “would encourage the economic and social recovery of the eastern region of Puerto Rico,” the trio said in the letter.
“Given the challenging economic conditions on the island, it is paramount that we take steps to create jobs and improve the quality of life for Puerto Rico’s residents,” they said.