Hospitals, tourism, small businesses, and individuals are some of the beneficiaries of the big relief package.
The government of Puerto Rico received $2.2 billion in direct aid provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The legislation, which could be the largest relief package in history, designated a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to cover expenses incurred by states and territories due to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic from March 1 to December 30 of this year.
On Thursday, Governor Wanda Vázquez announced at a news conference she will sign an executive order addressing a disbursement plan for the $2.2 billion in funds allocated to Puerto Rico.
“This strategic plan has three main pillars: strengthening testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment programs for patients or those suspected of having COVID-19; reviving the economy and protecting jobs; and maintaining the continuity of government operations so services to the people are not affected,” Vázquez said.
One of the plan’s initiatives is for private hospitals to receive $150 million. Health institutions had been requesting aid due to a decrease in patient visits and hospitalizations during the national emergency. Some hospitals had to lay off up to half of their employees.
The government will also designate $150 million to buy more COVID-19 tests, and for contact tracing.
The tourism industry, one of the most affected by the pandemic, will receive $50 million.
Government offices will receive $100 million to buy protective gear and other safety materials. Municipalities will receive $100 million for expenses related to the emergency.
The Labor Department will receive $150 million for their unemployment fund.
Another $40 million will be assigned to the remote-work program, $40 million to the telemedicine program, $10 million to treatment expenses in jails, and $10 million to courses and training about COVID-19 directed at small and medium businesses.
Vázquez explained that the local government has to wait for federal-government-approved guidelines before funds are distributed.
“In the coming days, various government entities in charge of each program or measure will be announcing guidelines so people can submit their applications to benefit from these incentives,” said the Governor.
Vázquez addressed the possible concerns about potential mismanagement given a large amount of money to be distributed, saying that she will create a team in charge of overseeing and auditing the funds.
“There can’t be any opportunities for corruption,” she said. “Fraud and theft will not be allowed … don’t even try it.”
The governor assured at the moment over $1.7 billion in aid and benefits have been disbursed, of which $923 million correspond to disbursements made through the Department of the Treasury. Meanwhile, another $72 million has been allocated for merchants through the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, following its initials in Spanish) and $16.7 million for food aid through the Department of the Family Services.
“It is not enough; we have to go for more. We know that there are many people in need, and we are working very hard,” Governor Vázquez said.