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Gov Declares State of Emergency to Prepare, Reopen Public Schools

By on February 17, 2021

(ESM/CB)

Issues Executive Order Allowing Related Procurement, Hiring and Compliance with CDC, Health Dept. Protocols

SAN JUAN — With the goal of starting partial in-person classes at some of Puerto Rico’s public schools, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi decreed Wednesday a state of emergency to immediately address the reopening of public schools through Executive Order 015-2021.

“Since I took over as governor, just a month and a half ago, I have indicated the need for our public schools to gradually and safely reopen to receive students and deliver in-person classes,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “Under the circumstances, we must return to as much normalcy as possible. This is a well-thought-out and informed decision, taking into account the reopening recommendations made by U.S. President Joe Biden, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. To ensure that schools open safely, I have signed this executive order with the intention of ensuring that public schools can be conditioned as quickly as possible, complying with all the legal requirements of sound public administration.”

The executive order highlights that under Act 20 of 2017, which empowers the governor to decree a state of emergency, an expedited process is ordered to make the necessary purchases and hire the personnel needed to prepare schools that will be opening. It further provides that the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ensures the proper administration of what is procured by government agencies and may require reports and establish budgetary controls.

The executive order urges the relevant agencies to use existing General Services Administration agreements and contracts, and any government dependency involved in reconditioning schools will have the power to use these to purchase emergency services.

Any contracts awarded will be effective through June 30 and must be sent to Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) on the date awarded. 

The required service contracts, procurements and work needed must first be published on the website of the contracting agencies and the Education Department for proponents to submit proposals and estimates. 

“I want to make it crystal clear that agencies are not exempt from complying with the processes for making exceptional purchases under the General Services Administration Act of 2019, nor with the preferential laws of the Puerto Rican industry, as well as federal regulations related to procurement requirements to ensure eligibility within the corresponding reimbursement programs. This is a law and order government,” the governor said after stressing that only schools that comply with the health and safety protocols established by the CDC and the Health Department will open.  

The executive order is accessible here: https://www.estado.pr.gov/en/executive-orders/

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