Sunday, September 19, 2021

Small Business Pandemic Economic Assistance Guidelines Announced

By on February 3, 2021

Economic Development Secretary-designate Manuel Cidre and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés (Courtesy)

SAN JUAN — Economic Development Secretary-designate Manuel Cidre and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés announced Tuesday that the guidelines of the new emergency assistance program for small businesses, the Business Interruption Grant (BIG) of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, are ready, with $65 million to be distributed among eligible businesses. Small-business owners with six or fewer employees can access the guidelines at the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority’s (Aafaf by its Spanish acronym) website, www.aafaf.pr.gov

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi was not present at the related news conference held in the La Fortaleza governor’s mansion because he went into quarantine for having been in recent contact with San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero, who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week. 

Nevertheless, in a statement, Pierluisi said: “The guidelines for providing financial assistance to small businesses that have seen operations disrupted by the preventive measures that have been taken since March 15 are now ready and on Friday, Feb. 12, an official announcement for them to submit their applications will be opened through the Treasury Department’s SURI platform.” 

This round of financial assistance was triggered by Executive Order 2021-010 and will be eligible primarily for restaurants, gyms, activity centers, theaters and other recreational venues. Those who offer support services for entertainment activities could also qualify for the economic relief. 

“I urge small-business owners to check whether they are eligible for these funds, following the guidelines, so that when the application process is opened, they can submit all the required information,” the governor said. 

Cidre and Parés submitted the plan to the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Committee, whose members reviewed and approved eligibility guidelines for the implementation of the incentive program. 

The officials stressed that those businesses whose operations were affected by the pandemic and have not participated in the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Payment Protection Program (PPP), could qualify for this local stimulus. The deadline for applicants to use the funds is Dec. 31. 

Cidre stressed the importance of financially supporting this group of employers. 

“Small business owners are the driving engine of our island’s economy and at the same time the most economically affected by the pandemic, having to close their businesses or significantly reducing their operating capacity,” Cidre said, adding that he is working with the Treasury chief, looking for alternatives that would benefit this sector.  

“This program was designed to ease the economic burden of small businesses by covering costs and losses incurred by the disruption of their business or other adverse conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Cidre explained. 

Parés added that the application for the aid will be available on SURI starting Friday, Feb. 12, while stressing that the applications will be evaluated in the order in which they were filed and until the funds are available. 

“As with other financial assistance projects, we will use our SURI platform to receive and process merchant requests,” Parés said. “They will receive a notification through their accounts, after being evaluated, and more details will be offered soon about this process. 

“The governor has asked us to distribute these funds promptly and work diligently for the benefit of this sector.” 

Guidelines

In this round of financial assistance some $5,000 will be awarded to business owners who do not have employees on their payroll; $8,000 for those who have up to two workers; and $15,000 for those who have up to six employees. 

Applicants may include costs and losses incurred, such as: 

-Costs incurred due to a business disruption 

-Reimbursement of costs or losses such as inventory, equipment (including personal protective equipment and other supplies to promote health and safety), payroll costs, rent and technology to facilitate e-commerce, professional services purchased (including the design and construction of necessary settings to promote physical and social distancing and cleaning and disinfection services) 

-Other operating costs incurred during the period beginning March 15, 2020 and ending December 31, 2021 

-Reimbursable expenses by the Coronavirus Relief Fund, as set in 601(a) of the Social Security Act and added by section 5001 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act including all subsequent federal guidelines and amendments 

Expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any other federal program are not eligible for reimbursement through BIG fund.

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