Agriculture, DDEC allocate $15M in recovery aid to farmers, businesses
The Puerto Rico Agriculture Department has allocated $9.8 million to buy the local production from farmers whose crops were destroyed by Hurricane Fiona, while the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish) said it will increase the SMEs Emergency Incentives program to $5 million.
Agriculture Secretary Ramón González urged farmers who have products available and have their Unique Bidder Registry (RUL) to go to one of the seven Agricultural Businesses Development Administration (ADEA, in Spanish) Marketing Centers to sell their products.
ADEA will distribute the products across nonprofits that participate in the US Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) designed to boost the farming economy and serve disadvantaged populations.
“There’s an urgent need for farmers to sell their crops and with this initiative we want to minimize the losses caused by Hurricane Fiona,” González said.
“We have the funds available through the ADEA and the personnel to serve them, we just need them to go to the Marketing Centers to sell to us their products. We have allocated $9.8 million to help all our farmers,” said González.
The Marketing Centers in San Germán, San Sebastián, Ciales, Naranjito, Cayey, Rio Grande yand Patillas will begin receiving products today, he said.
More than 50 nonprofits that offer community services to faith-based populations, the elderly, children, students, among others, will benefit from this initiative for a year. The ADEA Marketing Centers will distribute the food boxes directly to organizations that lack the capacity to pick them up.
The food boxes include fruit and vegetables, and other products, according to availability.
DDEC boosts aid limit
Meanwhile, DDEC Secretary Manuel Cidre announced that $3 million will be added to the Emergency Incentive for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in addition to the $2 million previously identified for a total of $5 million.
In addition, he vowed to continue identifying funds that help mitigate the impact on these businesses.
So far, the agency has visited about 1,000 businesses in the towns Arecibo, Adjuntas, Guayanilla, Jayuya, Maunabo, Patillas, Peñuelas, Ponce, Salinas.
“During the first 72 hours of the emergency, more than 13,600 requests were received through the agency’s website,” he said.
On Monday, the DDEC began disbursing aid to qualified cases, he said, adding that during this week the agency will continue to visit municipalities to assist businesses “because the goal is that before Oct. 15, most of the municipalities reached to offer guidance to those affected.”
The profile used for the small business was tempered so that the bulk of the aid goes to the most affected, he said.
The updated profile of a small business is one that has annual sales of $1.5 million or less. The requirement of 25 jobs or less was eliminated because most small businesses have one or two employees and are often operated by the same owner, the agency noted.
The emergency incentive can help cover part of the cost of purchasing an electric generator, equipment replacement, inventory losses, repair of their business infrastructure, among others.
“It’s important to complete the form because in addition to having the possibility of accessing aid from the DDEC emergency fund, the database will be used to identify the number of small businesses that operate in Puerto Rico and share information necessary to apply for additional federal funds,” Cidre said.