Government

Gov’t seeking new federal money to fix economy

OMB Executive Director Carlos Rivas OMB Executive Director Carlos Rivas

Puerto Rico’s chronic inability to fully tap into federal funding has short-changed the island out of millions in competitive grants and loans available for a cross-section of activities, a top government official said recently.

In fact, Puerto Rico is dead last among all of the 50 states and U.S. territories when it comes to applying for competitive grant money, said Carlos Rivas, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Management and Budget.

According to the most recent numbers, Puerto Rico received a mere $259 million in such contributions during calendar year 2010. This funding is included in the $23.5 billion total of federal funding the island received that year through regular transfers for agencies and programs such as housing, agriculture and transportation.

Rivas explained that if it were to move up just one notch in the ranking, the island could see a potential influx of $530 million additional dollars; moving up to the middle of the list would translate into an additional $1.6 billion; while getting in among the top-10 most-funded states would mean getting between $3.1 billion and $5.7 billion in new funding per year, Rivas said.

“This would mean getting recurring funds to flow into the economy, in competitive grants per capita. How does that affect the economy? Aside from financing programs, we could also fund projects and certain administrative expenses the government incurs,” he said.

“There is great potential in that for us, if we could move into a higher ranking by doing it as well as other states when it comes to competing for grants,” Rivas said.

To address that objective, the island’s government established the Federal Funds Management Office about a year ago and recently hired a stateside expert in competitive grants processes to go after the money, he said.

Merril Oliver, former head of Maryland’s Governor’s Grant Office — which in 2010 ranked 8th in terms of securing federal competitive grants, landing nearly $1.2 billion in funding for the state — has taken over the job of setting up the island for short- and long-term funding.

“This strategy has two phases – one is on the short-term to obtain grants and offset losses, and on the longer term, for infrastructure projects,” Rivas said.

Comments (3)

  1. Kenneth McClintock

    This is a positive initiative. Once a grant is obtained, those in charge of administering it should go through an intensive training process to make sure it’s done right, espcially in light of the March 2011 White House Task Force on Puerto Rico recommendation that such training be intensified.

    • No, it is yet another shackle of dependency and one more excuse to put off tackling the source of our economic disaster: ourselves. People and business are fleeing the island, not because there is a lack of Federal funds, but because it is too hard to make a living and the crime is too high. Taxes, utilities, the permitting process, and regulations are all things we ourselves control – and we have created a system that crushes everyone. Until we have the political will to stop looking for handouts and deal with our self-imposed economic failures, there is nothing that will fix the economy long term.

Comment here