Perelló Accuses González of Plagiarizing His HUBZone Program Idea
SAN JUAN – House Speaker Jaime Perelló accused Minority Leader Jenniffer González on Monday of plagiarizing his proposal in favor of the full inclusion of Puerto Rico into the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones) program.
Armed with letters and documents sent to Congress, Perelló said that for the past two years, he has been asking Congress to include Puerto Rico in the HUBZone program, most recently on April 11. HUBZones make it easier for small businesses to qualify for federal contracts.
The latest version of HR 4900, or the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, the bill that would impose a fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico to deal with its fiscal crisis, already contains a provision to make Puerto Rico a HUBZone, he revealed, suggesting that González is attempting to take credit for the idea.
“It is the only economic development measure that was put in the latest draft of the bill. I was informed about two weeks ago but did not want to say anything. She must have known about it because, all of sudden, how come she comes up with the idea at all if not for political reasons?” he said.
House Majority Leader Charlie Hernández went as far as accusing González of “legislative piracy.” Perelló said González is welcome to join his efforts but noted she should not be trying to take credit for his efforts, which are part of his bills aimed at helping small and midsize businesses.
González acknowledged that Perelló has been talking about the HUBZones, but insisted they should be expanded to the entire island.
Besides asking Congress to allow Puerto Ricans to claim benefits of the Earned Income Tax and Child Tax credits, at a press conference, González urged for the island’s full inclusion in the HUBZone program, which is meant to provide employment through federal contracting of small businesses in disadvantaged urban and rural communities and areas where there have been base closings.
The basis for the HUBZone program is an existing, government-wide goal that 3% of eligible federal contracts be channeled toward businesses that meet the criteria of need and base closings. Based on the eligible U.S. contracting budget of $367.3 billion for fiscal year 2014, that would mean $11.01 billion nationwide in contracts directed to small businesses in those communities, she stated in letters to Congress.
However, as of the last two completed fiscal years, the federal government has failed to meet this target, remaining at around 1.8%, short from the goal by more than $5 billion, she said.
“That does not mean additional expenditure; it is part of the contracting budget that is already being spent, but is failing to be directed toward businesses in the eligible zones. Puerto Rico obviously has many communities that meet all of those conditions, as already evaluated by the SBA [Small Business Administration]. In fact, due to our size and population, the whole of Puerto Rico in one way or another faces at least two of the criteria of difficult business-development conditions: low household incomes by U.S. standards, high unemployment and impact from base closings,” she stated in letters to Congress.
Puerto Rican businesses are no strangers to being supplier of goods and services to the federal government. Furthermore HUBZones focus on locally based small businesses, providing communities with a “true core of job creation and the seeds of entrepreneurship that will allow progress and job creation,” she said.