Saturday, September 26, 2020

Hurricane-impacted Businesses Have Until Dec. 31 to File for Funds

By on December 10, 2018

A gas station in Santurce, San Juan, after Hurricane Maria struck the island. (CB photo)

SAN JUAN – Some 9,000 Puerto Rico businesses claimed part of the $650 million earmarked to help local businesses recuperate from Hurricane Maria but about 35,000 made mistakes on the applications.

While the Puerto Rico Treasury Department has not made an announcement as to whether companies that made mistakes on their applications will be able to refile their claims, local firms wishing to apply for Employee Retention Benefit funds have until Dec. 31 to do so, said Tim Norwood, executive vice president of Synergi Partners Puerto Rico.

Norwood said the mistakes made by some 35,000 companies consisted of “underfilling” or thinking they qualified for fewer funds than they actually qualified for, because they did not understand the instructions.

“For instance, they did not understand the term ‘inoperable’ on the form. Inoperable did not mean they were forced to shut down. It could mean they operated with generators or they had little inventory,” Norwood said.

Companies that have not filed claims for the Employee Retention Benefit program can seek the help of Synergi in the process.  

Under the congressional program, all businesses are eligible to receive a cash payment of up to $1,920 for each employee retained after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

The Employee Retention Benefit for Employers Affected by Hurricane Maria is available through the local Treasury Department until Dec. 31, he said.

“The worse thing we could experience is having this money [sitting here] and no one to benefit from this,” Norwood said.

Synergi Partners Puerto Rico LLC, a South Carolina firm, opened its doors this year on Palmeras Street in San Juan to help Puerto Rico businesses apply for the funds.

A Puerto Rico employer that operated after the storm can claim the benefit for each employee who was retained.

How does an employer get the benefit? In the case of Synergi, the company interviews the employer to determine its damages and prepares an operational impact analysis that identifies how long the business was affected. The analysis account for extraordinary measures the business undertook to remain in operation. The benefit is available for employers even if they had to temporarily cut wages for workers, had to have part-time employees or temporarily were forced to shut down.

Synergi represents the company in all processes before the Treasury Department. Once the application is submitted, the employer can expect to get the benefit via direct deposit within 30 days.

A presentation explaining the benefit can be accessed here and the application process is available at Treasury’s website

More employee-retention benefit funds for hurricane-affected employers disbursed

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