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AAFAF details $2.2B CARES Act impact in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Omar J. Marrero, who is the executive director of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, (AAFAF, in Spanish), detailed the allocation of about $2.23 billion disbursed in the island under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES).

The latest Puerto Rico report on CARES funding revealed its reach across the island’s 78 municipalities and various sectors, benefiting 189,355 self-employed individuals; 25,198 small businesses; 1,258 medium-sized businesses; 181,206 students and educators; 1,110 hotels and other tourism-related businesses; 58 public and private hospitals; and 72 Diagnostic and Treatment Centers (CDTs, in Spanish).

“We are pleased and proud of the work we have done at AAFAF for the efficient disbursement of CARES funds and ensuring transparency in the process,” Marrero stated. He added that the agency contributed to the strategic development and execution of 25 assistance programs to optimize the utilization of CARES Act funds.

To ensure the integrity of the distribution process, Marrero highlighted the implementation of an accountability framework aimed at preventing fraud, waste and abuse while maintaining transparency.

“Throughout the process, we maintained 100% compliance in financial progress reporting to the U.S. Treasury Office of Inspector General,” he affirmed.

Marrero also discussed the progress of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSFRF) program, noting that more than $1.5 billion has been disbursed from a total of $2.47 billion allocated to the central government. 

“This places us in a leadership position among the other states and jurisdictions of the United States as we continue with the responsible and effective disbursement of these funds that are so important for Puerto Rico’s recovery,” Marrero said

He also pointed to an additional $1.6 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) distributed directly to the island’s municipalities by the federal government.

The CSFRF funds have been primarily directed toward enhancing public health; improving quality of life, particularly in disadvantaged communities; and ensuring the sustainability of government operations, Marrero said. 

Other priorities include stimulating economic growth, especially in the tourism sector, “providing continuity to transparency, compliance, and accountability measures in government affairs,” according to AAFAF’s release.

In 2023, AAFAF facilitated approvals for various CSFRF initiatives, including more than $65 million for incentives and pay increases for first responders, $30.7 million for landfill management, $21.1 million for sports facilities upgrades, $15.3 million for water and sewer projects, and more than $15 million for infrastructure repair and improvements in several government agencies.

Additional allocations include $10.3 million for municipal infrastructure, $7.5 million to the Infrastructure Financing Authority for various infrastructure rehabilitation projects, $5 million for coastal erosion mitigation, and $3.6 million for the refurbishment of the witness shelter by the Department of Justice.

“To date, the impact areas of the $1.53 billion disbursed include more than 26,000 repairs to schools, almost 68,000 Premium Pay incentives at hospitals and CDTs, some $125 million in investment for tourism and perhaps most importantly, almost 2.3 million individuals vaccinated against the coronavirus,” the official concluded.

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