Fiscal Board Urges Puerto Rico Gov to Use Available Money
Vázquez Announced She Would Request Authorization to Send $500 to All Private Employees, Retirees
SAN JUAN — The request by Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced that the island’s fiscal control board release funds that allow the government to send $500 of aid to private sector employees and pensioners, could depend on the speed with which they have the funds already approved by the oversight panel.
Vázquez Garced announced Thursday afternoon her request for the board to authorize the funds needed to send additional aid.
“Recognizing the historical moment that we are facing and…the economic impact that we have suffered as a result of this pandemic, this [public] servant and our government fiscal team identified two possible sources of financing to request the fiscal control board to authorize the funds necessary to be able to send a financial aid of $500 to all taxpayers employed in the private industry and pensioners of our island, whether or not they filed a return last year,” the governor said during her press conference.
However, the spokesman for the fiscal board, Edward Zayas, told Caribbean Business in a statement that said request had yet to reach. “We will analyze it when it comes,” he said.
“However, we urge the government to quickly release the $787 million from the aid package that was approved four weeks ago, as well as the $160 million from the emergency fund. It is necessary to ensure that those funds reach the pockets of the people who genuinely need them as soon as possible,” Zayas said.
According to the board, the government has only distributed $165 million of the $787 million authorized and about $80 million of the $160 million emergency fund.
“Some 36,000 healthcare workers are eligible for bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $4,000, while another 23,000 front-line workers, including public safety employees, were eligible for bonuses of $ 2,000 to $4,000,” Zayas added.
As of Monday, April 13, the government reported that only about 800 nurses had received their bonuses.
At the press conference, Vázquez Garced, along with the secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), Manuel Laboy Rivera, and the secretary of the Department of Education (DE), Eligio Hernández, detailed the various incentive programs that are already available to beneficiaries of small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), business owners and teaching faculty of Puerto Rico’s schools, amid the Covid-19 emergency.
“Our entrepreneurs and teachers are going through an unprecedented economic situation. Given this, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, and the Department of Education will be processing and disbursing this week a series of reimbursements, incentives and economic aid to inject into the local economy during this emergency period,” the governor explained.
The first of these financial aid measures is the disbursement of the $1,500 incentive, totaling $60 million, for SMEs affected by the lockdown decree to control the spread of Covid-19.
Vázquez Garced revealed that of the total $60 million only about $19 million has been disbursed amid more than 14,000 applications submitted. The money assigned for these initiatives ran out in less than two weeks and the program stopped receiving applications.
“We know that this money will be beneficial for small and medium business owners to meet some of their financial commitments,” the governor said. In total, some 45,000 SMEs are expected to benefit from this program.
Laboy Rivera said more than 60,000 applications were received, “and, while our team works to move the approvals and disbursements, we are already in talks with the entities concerned, examining the possibility that more funds be allocated to us to help more entrepreneurs. The situation that our business people are going through is urgent and the administration’s commitment is to provide the aid that is within our reach for the speedy recovery of the economic sector.”
He explained that “to verify the stage at which your request for the incentive and additional aid is available…access www.refuerzoeconomico.com.”
The period for employers to request the reimbursement of up to $50,000 for the purchase of certain equipment needed to continue operating began Thursday.