Treasury Denies Deadlock in Talks with Feds Over Stimulus Payments
Yet Admits Sticking Points With IRS Involving Aid Disbursement to Retirees, Vets
SAN JUAN – Treasury Department Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea denied Tuesday that negotiations with the U.S. Treasury Department are deadlocked over distribution in Puerto Rico of the $1,200 Covid-19 economic impact payments to individuals, though he admitted there were sticking points in the talks he said have not concluded.
He said in a press release that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (Cares Act) stipulates that the U.S. Treasury Department is obligated to coordinate with the territories the manner in which the $1,200 economic stimulus payments will be distributed.
“The [Puerto Rico] Treasury has complied with Section 2201 of the Cares Act and submitted a plan to disburse the benefit to the residents of Puerto Rico, and we are waiting for the approval of the [U.S.] Treasury,” Parés said. “The negotiation process is active and the federal Treasury has not made a final decision. Therefore, it is false to say that the plan was not approved or that the process is paralyzed.”
Nevertheless, the Treasury chief acknowledged there were sticking points in ongoing talks with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“Today we return to the discussion, and insist on our proposal that Social Security beneficiaries, as well as veterans, receive the incentive directly [from the federal government]; however, the federal agency stated that [the Puerto Rico] Treasury should distribute [the payments],” he said in a statement. “There is no final determination on this matter, and neither is there for the plan in its totality. We continue sharing information with the IRS and the [U.S.] Treasury and they will finally determine the terms that will apply for the disbursement of funds to the residents of Puerto Rico.”
Meanwhile, Parés said that his agency is working on a “phased distribution” of the aid and on the “technological infrastructure” needed to send the money to taxpayers using Treasury’s online internal revenue system (SURI by its Spanish acronym). He explained that the aid will be sent out in phases, starting with those who have filed the 2019 tax return, and then, subsequently, to those who filed the 2018 tax return.
Treasury projects that during the first phase of the aid distribution plan, some $762.3 million will be sent out to 463,000 individuals, the official said. Among these expected aid beneficiaries, there are 182,000 who must provide a bank account in which their corresponding $285.9 million should be deposited.
“The process will be simple; I had the opportunity to see the demo of the digital tool and I am very satisfied with the great work done,” he said, noting that the SURI application will not require an account. “Taxpayers will have to answer, in a simple way, some questions to be able to acquire information about the bank account where the direct deposit will be made.”
Parés said that as soon as the U.S. Treasury approves the local distribution plan, his agency will “immediately begin” disbursing the aid, given that the Financial Oversight & Management Board has already authorized $400 million in Treasury revenue to forward the payments and then request the reimbursement from the federal government.
Regarding non-filers and other groups, the Treasury chief called on them to “stay tuned to official Treasury communications during the next few days.”
“We will shed light on details on the distribution shortly, as soon as there is an agreement with the [U.S.] Treasury, for participants of PAN [Spanish acronym for Nutritional Assistance Program], Social Security, among other sectors, who can benefit,” he said.