The measure that passed a House committee last week would allow for a federal control board to oversee the finances -- and potentially restructure the debt -- of any U.S. territory, even though Puerto Rico is the only one now asking for help. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp and Rep. Stacey Plaskett have blasted the bill, warning that it may tarnish its standing with investors. That concern is already starting to materialize: Returns on its securities are trailing the $3.7 trillion municipal market for the first time since 2011.

The Caribbean island, Puerto Rico's closest American neighbor, has a sliver of the population -- about 104,300 -- and a fraction of the debt, with $2.4 billion across all issuers. But divvied up, that's $23,000 of obligations per person, even more than Puerto Rico's $20,000. The two Caribbean territories with a shared culture also have similar fiscal strains: declining populations, underfunded pensions, histories of borrowing to cover budget shortfalls and unemployment rates that are twice as high as the U.S. mainland's.

... unlike some American local governments, the territories -- - American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- can't file for bankruptcy. That made investors confident they'd be paid back, a faith that was lost as Puerto Rico defaulted and Congress advanced legislation providing a way for distressed territories to reduce their debts in court if needed.

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