Puerto Rico government pays Christmas bonuses

A woman carries bags while walking in a commercial area with stores either closed or offered for sale in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

(Reuters) - Debt-ridden Puerto Rico started paying Christmas bonuses to public employees on Sunday and aims to complete the process within the next three days, the commonwealth government said.

It had been unable to confirm for weeks if it could meet the Dec. 20 deadline required under a 1969 law for the seasonal bonus. The payments total about $120 million, government officials said earlier this month.

Bonuses will be paid to government officials and regular employees of at least six months, and irregular employees who had worked at least 960 hours in a 12-month period.

Puerto Rico, with $72 billion of debt, defaulted on part of a debt payment in August. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla recently said the U.S. territory would likely default on payments in January or May, but stressed that Puerto Rico citizens had priority over creditors.

Reporting by a contributor in San Juan; Editing by Richard Chang