Puerto Rico is the Isla del Encanto. But at this point, if you live in Puerto Rico you know that there are some areas where Puerto Rico is not equal to the states. Congress can legally treat Puerto Rico differently from states because Puerto Rico is a territory.
Puerto Rico also has no voting members in the legislature, and cannot vote for the president. There are consequences for these differences.
If you’re not sure that statehood will be an improvement, call your friends and family in the states and ask them.
Puerto Rico is still suffering when it comes to health care. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation recently published their “One Year after Maria” report on healthcare in Puerto Rico. While they celebrated the fact that electricity is generally available, there are still facilities that have not opened since the hurricane. There is still a serious lack of healthcare providers, including nurses. Puerto Rico, which always receives less federal healthcare funding than states, is looking at more funding cuts. And suicides and other mental health issues continue to be higher than usual.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Puerto Rico is higher than in many states. Expatistan calculated the difference in the cost of living in San Juan compared with Springfield, Missouri. San Juan is 32% more expensive.
Food + 12%
Housing + 52%
Clothes + 15%
Transportation + 32%
Personal Care – 15%
Entertainment + 58%
TOTAL + 32%
It’s costlier than Oklahoma City; Ft. Collins, Colorado; Kansas City, Kansas; Bakersfield, California; and many more U.S. towns. The cost of living is about the same in San Juan as in New York City, New Orleans, and Miami. However, the average income is much lower in San Juan.
The average child in Puerto Rico lost 78 school days last year. Hundreds of elementary schools have closed. Budget cuts in higher education are the most severe in the history of the territory. Education is having to be rebuilt after the hurricanes, and it is taking some time. Senator Elizabeth Warren and seven of her colleagues in the Senate asked for hearings about the medical and educational systems in Puerto Rico. She described the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico’s educational system as “crippling.” Many stateside colleges and universities are offering in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricane Maria.
U.S. citizens living in any state can vote for senators, congresspeople, and the president. U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico — can’t.
It is not disloyal to be honest about the challenges Puerto Rico faces as a territory. It is realistic to point out that many of these problems will go away with statehood. As a state, Puerto Rico will have the same rights and responsibilities as a state. Federal funds will be provided equally and residents will have the political power to achieve a level playing field.