A Message to CNE Friends, Family and Partners from Miguel A. Soto-Class

Published on March 23, 2020

Mike Portrait
President & Founder

A Message to CNE Friends, Family and Partners

The last couple of weeks have brought back memories and feelings for me of the days right after hurricane María struck Puerto Rico. Feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and anxiety over how the crisis will unfold.

As opposed to María, however, the CNE team has had power and full communications capacity, the difference now being that we have been in lockdown for a week now with almost all businesses shuttered.  Certainly, it has been a challenge to undertake our usual enterprise while quarantined at home, on top of the new challenges posed by the pandemic. But we are making it work.

Taking a page from our past experience with María, the CNE team has very rapidly scanned internally to assess our strengths, as well as externally to determine Puerto Rico’s greatest current needs and what our greatest contributions to those needs could be. Towards that end we have focused our energies into becoming a highly credible nerve center of scientific and empirical information, a role that we know well as it forms the DNA of CNE’s economic research capacity.

As we all know, the threats to Puerto Rico and the world are primarily health related but increasingly economic, as well.  This is particularly true for Puerto Rico, as our long-term economic contraction combined with our current bankruptcy process and austerity regime leaves us with no capacity for providing stimulus to the local economy at exactly the moment that it needs it most. So CNE is marshaling our considerable policy, data and advocacy assets to confront this new challenge.

More specifically, our Board of Directors has swiftly come together to work with our Development Team to look for ways to make sure that CNE has the financial resources and support to carry on our vital work during this crisis.

Our Policy and Research Team, while continuing our work around the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the reconstruction process, and our Blueprint Housing Policy Initiative, has developed a new focus on the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on Puerto Rico. After hurricane María, all eyes were on Puerto Rico, and the amount of support the island received from the diaspora, from philanthropic foundations and from many in Washington was significant.  Now, however, most of Puerto Rico’s go-to champions are dealing with their own crisis and rightly so. Consequently, we are left with our government’s very limited representation in DC. We have, therefore, decided to reshuffle our internal resources, as well as bring in new capacity, in order to significantly increase the capacity of our Washington, DC operations. Rosanna Torres, our DC Office Director, has been tirelessly calling, emailing, texting and coordinating to make sure that Puerto Rico gets fair treatment in the federal response with a particular emphasis on three key areas: increased healthcare resources, streamlined emergency funding, and emergency economic stimulus for small businesses and displaced workers.

Our Communications Team has begun to develop new engagement tools and opportunities for reaching out and connecting not just with our CNE followers, but with the larger audience of people currently quarantined and connected to devices. Principal among those new services is CNE’s Living with Risk Daily Briefing, a trustworthy source of validated and useful information from both CNE’s in-house and external experts to help citizens during a time when rumors and misinformation are running rampant. The team is also busy coordinating and sharing validated on-the-ground information, as well as coordinating interviews with CNE faculty and local, national and international media outlets.

This crisis that we are currently living through is neither the first that we’ve encountered, nor will it be the last. From now on, it is critical for all of us, but especially those of us in Puerto Rico, to learn to live, and indeed thrive, with the risks that are now perennial in our lives.

As we move forward in uncertainty, it becomes more important than ever for our government leaders to balance the call for quick, decisive action with the need to consider the long-term impacts of those decisions.

This pandemic should serve to remind us how important it is to have solid and capable leadership in government.  Our current political leadership has for the most part been measured and found wanting.  We have a responsibility to our communities and to ourselves to choose carefully during these next elections. We can’t just choose who we like or who looks like us, or worse still, not vote and let others choose for us. We have to be wise in our choices and elect those who will be honest and capable and best fit to lead not just in the good times, but also in times of crisis and upheaval.

Finally, I encourage you all during this time to trust scientific data and experts and not social media. There is much we don’t know, but we do have some information. One thing experts have found thus far is that for most, the health effects of Covid-19 will be modest. We also know that the world’s best scientists are working around the clock on a vaccine. And we know that the social distancing we are undertaking has been shown to help flatten the curve of infections so that medical resources are not overwhelmed.

Times likes this can bring out the worst in us or the best. Make the choice to have it bring out your best.

Very truly yours,

Miguel A. Soto-Class
President & Founder
Center for a New Economy