White House holds roundtable on Puerto Rico crisis, calls for Congress to act

WASHINGTON U.S. officials held a roundtable discussion at the White House on Tuesday about the “worsening” fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico, as the Obama administration continues to press Congress to act on the issue.

The meeting with Puerto Rican labor leaders and business executives featured briefings from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, according to a White House blog post issued late on Tuesday.

Lew told meeting participants that Puerto Rico has already had to take extreme emergency measures like borrowing from its pensions to stay afloat and the island will face additional strain in May and June, when more than $2 billion in debt payments come due.

“We simply cannot provide Puerto Rico with the tools it desperately needs to confront this crisis without congressional action,” the White House said.

The White House has said that Puerto Rico needs federal legislation to allow it to restructure its debts and give it independent fiscal oversight.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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