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Puerto Rico gov announces plan for $2.2 billion granted by Cares Act

By on May 14, 2020

Gov. Wanda Vázquez (Courtesy)

SAN JUAN – Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said she will sign an executive order that adopts the “Strategic Plan for Disbursement” of the $2.2 billion allocated to the government of Puerto Rico by the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act.

The document, which the Vázquez administration said is prepared in accordance with the parameters established by the U.S. Treasury Department, contains dozens of programs and initiatives that seek to address the direct and indirect consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This Strategic Plan has three main pillars: strengthening testing, tracing, isolation and treatment programs for patients or those suspected of having COVID-19; revive the economy and protect jobs; and maintain continuity in government operations so that services to the people are not affected,” the governor said.

Among the initiatives and measures included in the Strategic Plan to assist the private sector is a $1,000 incentive for self-employed individuals, a $5,000 incentive for small businesses with two to 49 employees, and a $10,000 incentive for companies with up to 500 employees. In addition, it includes a program with $350 million to reimburse the private sector for payroll costs during the emergency; and $10 million set aside to provide workshops and training to small and midsize companies in topics related to COVID-19.

Additionally, $150 million is included to provide emergency assistance to private hospitals for expenses related to COVID-19 and $50 million for the same costs in the tourism industry.

In addition, $150 million is assigned for the purchase of COVID-19 tests and a contact tracing program for patients or those suspected of having COVID-19, and $100 million is also set aside for the purchase of materials and personal protective equipment to be distributed to all government offices.

Likewise, $100 million is assigned to be transferred to the municipalities for eligible expenses related to COVID-19 and $150 million to provide liquidity to the Unemployment Fund of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH).

For future expenses, reimbursements to the General Fund and the Emergency Reserve, $485.6 million is being set aside.

Finally, $40 million is included for the government’s remote work program, $40 million for the telemedicine program, $10 million for expenses in the island’s correctional facilities and $5 million for the homeless assistance program.

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (Aafaf by its Spanish acronym), Omar J. Marrero Díaz, said the plan establishes a balance between the needs caused by the public health emergency and the funds necessary to provide emergency assistance to the island’s economy.

“In accordance with our commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility, we will be closely monitoring all programs and disbursements, to make the pertinent recommendations to the governor. In addition, we will be periodically publishing on our [online] portal a report with the detail of all disbursements,” said Marrero, who is also the governor’s representative to the Financial Oversight and Management Board.

Vázquez Garced added: “In the coming days, the various government entities in charge of each program or measure will be announcing the process so that people can submit their applications to benefit from these incentives.”

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