Federal Funds to Help Employers, Avoid Layoffs Announced
Up to $50,000 May be Applied for Starting April 13 if Expenses to Curb Spread of COVID-19 Would Force Having to Lay Off Employees
SAN JUAN — The secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish initials), Manuel Laboy Rivera, announced Wednesday the availability of $8 million in federal funds to reimburse certain expenses of up to 160 employers.
“Commercial operations in Puerto Rico are going through a very challenging economic time. To help them continue to offer services while avoiding job losses, the DDEC’s Workforce Development Program [PDL by its Spanish initials] identified $8 million from the Rapid Response Fund, as well as the Displaced Workers Program.
“A maximum of $50,000 may be assigned to 160 employers who demonstrate that the extraordinary expenses incurred by the purchase of personal protective equipment such as: masks, gowns and disinfectant products, as well as the purchase of office supplies and electronic equipment that promote social distancing, among others, have left them in such an economic position that they would have to lay off employees if they” do not receive this aid, Laboy said in a media release.
He explained that the application for the funds will be available at www.refuerzoeconómico.com from April 13 to June 15, depending on the availability of funds. In accordance with public policy approved by the State Labor Development Board, employers may request funds during the emergency, and within the period of 60 days following the cessation of the emergency.
The director of the DDEC’s Labor Development Program, Natasha Vazqueztell, pointed out that the requirements to benefit from this aid are: being a bona fide employer with 500 or fewer employees (including those who are self-employed), not having debts with the Government of Puerto Rico or having kept up with a Payment Plan, and that can demonstrate that the extraordinary expenses incurred to maintain their operation or to resume it could result in the loss of its human resources.
For his part, the chairman of the State Labor Development Board, Emilio Colón Zavala, said that, “in this emergency, it is important to ensure that our workers are safe, over any other consideration. In addition, job losses must be minimized. To do this, this program seeks to help businesses not have to lay off employees during this emergency. A double catastrophe must be minimized as far as possible.”
“In the past few weeks, we have seen how certain industrial sectors have stepped up and are developing the products and equipment necessary to address the health crisis in which we find ourselves. Given the importance of the continuity of operations of these exempt sectors, these funds were identified. This aid is part of the initiatives we are developing to support employers, as well as employees, so that they can keep their jobs. We will announce other initiatives soon that will be available to promote the development of the workforce at this time when the world faces a great health and economic challenge,” the chairman said.
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