U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says creating a path as soon as possible to allow Puerto Rico's government to file for bankruptcy would help the U.S. territory recover from its economic crisis.

Lew made the comments in a two-page letter to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. It was released Tuesday and comes amid heightened concern that Puerto Rico will default on several upcoming payments as it struggles with $72 billion of public debt that the island's governor has said is unpayable.

Lew said Puerto Rico's fiscal situation is urgent and he believes it requires the immediate attention of Congress. The island is entering its ninth year in recession.

Lew was responding to a request for comment sent July 17 by Hatch, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.