Puerto Rico Government Exhorts Congress to Pass Coronavirus Emergency Bill
Points to Governor’s Implementation of Among ‘Most Widespread Protections’ to Manage Covid-19
SAN JUAN — As the U.S. Congress debates the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced is trying to get the message to lawmakers that not only is it “crucial” that the island is “treated equally,” but also that the measure is passed “as soon as possible.”
An agreement on a $2 trillion bill was announced Wednesday, but had yet to be voted on. Vázquez said the legislation would provide “much-needed” federal resources to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and it is “fundamental that we continue with our efforts to take aggressive measures to control the propagation and the entry of possible cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 to the island.”
The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) assured Wednesday that Vázquez was implementing “some of the most widespread protections” and “pioneering several initiatives that have not been previously seen” stateside.
Among the measures listed by PRFAA Director Jennifer Storipan are Vázquez’s “unprecedented” executive order, which enforced the closure of nonessential workplaces and facilities where people gather as well as schools until March 30.
Food-, healthcare- and fuel-related businesses are allowed to continue operating, along with financial institutions. People on the island are allowed to be outside only to receive healthcare services and buy food before the 9 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew is enforced.
Among other physical, or social, distancing measures taken, the governor signed legislation that moved the Puerto Rico Democratic Primary from March 29to April 26.
Storipan also pointed to the “historic measure” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which approved Vázquez’s request to redirect commercial air traffic to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the first U.S. airport for which the National Guard was activated to screen every passenger.
That measure has been broadened to now require that, upon arrival, any airline passenger be put under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The governor also closed the cruiseship ports.
“As Governor, I will take all necessary actions and measures to ensure the health and well-being of the people of Puerto Rico and I will continue to use the full force of my Executive powers to combat Coronavirus COVID-19. It is my duty to protect the safety of the 3.2 million U.S. citizens who call the island home,” Vázquez said.
On Monday, the governor announced a $787 million relief package for the public and private sectors, the PRFAA emphasized. It includes the suspension of the sales tax, the extension of the date to submit income taxes to July 1, and a moratorium of 90 days on payments of mortgages, cars, credit cards, personal loans and commercial loans. It also provides a bonus to healthcare workers, emergency responders and correctional offices.
“We urge Congressional Leadership to vote on the CARES Act so that Puerto Rico and other states throughout the Nation who are desperately grappling with the effects of this pandemic can access the necessary resources to respond,” Storipan stressed.