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Puerto Rico Family Department’s consolidation would save $2 million

By on August 23, 2017

SAN JUAN – The consolidation of the four administrations that make up the Family Department, according to House Bill 1124, would only save some $2 million.

The rest of the savings could come from the unification of service offices and the reduction of leasing contracts, Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar said during the first public hearing of H.B. 1124, the second reorganization of agencies since the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló began.

“It’s $2 million in savings. In terms of the [department], what we are verifying and ensuring is that services aren’t affected,” Andújar said. “The savings [expected from consolidation] of the agency in all that constitutes the leasing part, which is one of the strongest [line] items the [department] has in terms of expenses.”

The estimates were calculated with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which will appear before the Government Committees of the House and Senate on Aug. 25.

(Cindy Burgos/CB)

During her turn, the the department’s secretary explained the need to restructure the agency due to a lack of communication between the four administrations that comprise the umbrella agency: the Children and Families Administration (Adfan by its Spanish acronym), the Socioeconomic Development of the Family Administration (Adsef), the Child Support Services Administration (Asume), and the Childhood Care and Development Administration (Acuden).

With the restructuring, these four entities, whose structure is “bureaucratic, rigid and not very agile,” would be consolidated into two secretariats: of social assistance and public assistance. These would assume the responsibilities and social programs of the department.

Concern over federal funds

Andújar explained that the department is the  agency with the largest allocations of federal funds: approximately $2.4 billion are distributed annually to programs such as the Nutritional Assistance Plan (PAN by its Spanish acronym). The agency also received $327 million under state parity, which is $10 million less than what it received the previous fiscal year.

With the consolidation, the department official said  neither the agency’s programs or federal funding would be affected, although she confirmed there haven’t been formal communications with the U.S. government on this particular regard. However, she said there have been informal talks with federal officials to explain the measure, who have yet to express any objections.

Juan Dalmau, a senator from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), asked the official about the alternative measures the department would take ahead of possible cuts in social programs announced by President Donald Trump, which would probably represent a great impact on Puerto Rico for being a territory.

“We understand the concern and share it,” said Andújar, who stressed the importance of developing a “new culture of work” so people do not depend so much on social aid.

Objection to Asume’s unification

For her part, NPP Rep. María Milagros Charbonier expressed concern about the unification of Asume in the new structure and the possible damage it would cause in the cases carried out by auxiliary prosecutors for minors. With the bill, these 14 attorneys would become part of the Department of Justice.

The representative asked the Family head for a meeting to clarify her doubts, although a Justice official stated at the hearing that the transfer of these attorneys could be of benefit to children with food cases. This is because Justice also has a Family Advocacy division.

The third government agency that testified at the hearing was the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration (Assmca), which with the measure will no longer be in charge of the Multisectoral Council in support of the homeless population.

A representative of the Assmca administrator, Suzanne Roig, indicated that they favor the transfer of the program to the Family Department, as they have not been able to adequately meet the needs of the homeless, since the priority of the agency is the population of people with mental health and addiction problems.

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