Gelpí Orders Embargo on Health Department Accounts
SAN JUAN – Federal Judge Gustavo Gelpí issued Friday an order to embargo Health Department accounts to ensure payments to community providers serving individuals with developmental disabilities, according to reports in social media.
The order was in response to a complaint from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department against the Commonwealth to enforce the rights of said citizens.
Gelpí said a motion submitted by the Commonwealth left him with no other alternative but to issue the embargo. “This seems to be the only way in which the constitutional rights of people with special needs in this case, dating from 1999, can be protected,” he was quoted. “If not, the effect would be devastating for these individuals.”
The judge ordered Justice Secretary César Miranda; Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza; Health Secretary Ana Ríus and Office of Management and Budget Director Luis Cruz to convene in his office on April 27, according to the report.
Earlier this month, the office of the Joint Compliance Coordinator (JCC) alerted the United States that the Commonwealth had failed to pay a number of community providers in a timely manner and that there was a danger that further delayed payments could force several providers to imminently close their community homes. The office of the JCC arranged two emergency conference calls with the parties, on April 7 and 11, and then filed three reports with the Court discussing the situation.
This week, the office of the JCC contacted several community providers to determine if they had received payment of the February invoices within the 45-day payment date established by law. On April 21, the JCC office reported that no provider it contacted had received any payments within the 45-day window.
“Needless to say, the current situation—with repeated failures to pay providers in a timely manner consistent with existing Court orders—is untenable and unsustainable,” a motion filed by U.S. officials read.
“It is unacceptable to ask the providers to operate with the indefinite prospect of uncertain monthly payments going forward; to ask persons to live with the indefinite prospect of uncertain services from strained providers going forward, [or] for the Court to bear the burden of addressing weekly or even daily crises associated with late provider payments that could lead to the closure of individual community homes or even the collapse of the entire community system altogether,” the document went on.
“The Court, the office of the JCC, and the United States should not have to repeatedly contact dozens of providers all over Puerto Rico just to see if the Commonwealth has met its Court-ordered payment obligations,” it concluded.