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17K businesses in Puerto Rico eligible for $65M in pandemic recovery aid

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Puerto Rico government officials announced the availability of $65 million in new economic assistance for some 17,000 eligible small businesses whose operations have been interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference, Department of Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés offered details of the Business Interruption Grant from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which will offer funding to businesses — including DBAs — with six or fewer employees.

The funding call will open on Feb. 12, when the Treasury Department will activate its SURI electronic platform to accept applications. The process will be open through Dec. 31, Parés said.

This round of financial assistance stems from Executive Order 2021-010 and will be open mainly to restaurants, gyms, activity centers, theaters, and other recreational operations. Businesses offering entertainment support services may also qualify.

“We’re enthusiastic about being able to help these types of industries that have certainly been greatly affected and we definitely have the personnel and technical capacity to make this process easy, and effective,” he said, vowing that after an eligible participant submits their application, the funding will be deposited in their bank accounts within 72 hours after approval.

In this round of financial assistance, up to $5,000 will be awarded to businesses that do not have employees on their payroll; $8,000 for those with up to two employees; and $15,000 for those with up to six people on their payroll, he said.

The officials stressed that businesses whose operations were affected by the pandemic and did not participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s PPP program will benefit.

“The funds may be used to pay for expenses such as utilities, rent, commercial mortgages, and other eligible costs,” Parés said, noting the funding will be granted on an “first in, first out” basis said Treasury will not deduct taxes in arrears from the funds granted to a business that may have a debt with the agency.

Meanwhile, Cidre stressed the importance of financially supporting this group of businesses, which will not have to repay the amount they receive.

“Small businesses are the engine that drives our island’s economy and at the same time the most that have suffered the economic ravages of the pandemic, having to close their businesses or significantly reduce their operating capacity,” he said.

The complete guidelines to confirm eligibility and participate in the program are up on the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority’s (AAFAF, in Spanish) website.

In related news, during the news conference, Parés confirmed that Treasury has disbursed $1.1 billion to 1.3 million people in Puerto Rico so far from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which opened in late January to provide a new round of aid across the US mainland and its territories.

“I told Gov. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi that we were going to break our own record in how quickly we would get this done, and we’re not going to rest until we finish sending out direct payments through Feb. 15,” he said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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