EDB Offers Loans to Former PUA Beneficiaries
For the thousands of freelance, self-employed and other workers who did not qualify for unemployment benefits but were able to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program compensation until it ended Sept. 4, the president of Puerto Rico’s Economic Development Bank, Luis Alemañy González, proposed they become entrepreneurs by applying for a loan to help them start their own business.
“This is a population of some 527,000 people who were out of the job amid the pandemic, and received over $7 billion during 18 months in unemployment benefits and over 882,329 people that received over $2 billion in PUA benefits,” Alemañy said in an interview with Caribbean Business. “When you combine the $7 billion and the $2 billion, this is almost equal to the Puerto Rico government’s general fund budget.”
The economist by profession noted that when these pandemic aid programs ended on Sept. 4, some 72,000 people stopped receiving the funds provided by the federal government. As the federal funds came to an end, that money stopped circulating in the island’s economy, “impacting local investment and consumption.”
“We have already started to see a reduction in car sales; there is less traffic at the stores, because that money has stopped circulating,” he said, adding that the money saved by PUA beneficiaries will also eventually be depleted. Hence, the government-owned bank, whose goal is to provide loans that help spur economic activity that replaces imports, sought to find a way to help these people become their own boss.
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