The Foundation for Puerto Rico announced the establishment of a grant fund to mitigate the loss of small and medium-sized businesses in Puerto Rico, as well as a digital platform that allows local entrepreneurs to communicate that they are already operating.
The first stage of the subsidy program was started with a $50,000 fund to revive urban hubs on Loíza Street in Santurce, Aguadilla and Ponce. The fund provides up to $3,000 to help restaurants, groceries, laundries, clothing shops, pharmacies and hardware stores.
“At 43 days after the passage of Hurricane María by Puerto Rico, we still have shops that have not been able to open their doors because of the lack of energy and many others that will never open again, either for lack of a generator or for economic resources to rectify the losses caused by the hurricane,” said Arnaldo Cruz, the nonprofit’s director of research and analysis.
“This is what Foundation for Puerto Rico wants to avoid, to lose an important base of small and medium-sized businesses that have always been the driving force of our economy and communities,” he said.
The Foundation conducted a field investigation in which it found that the operational inability of most businesses was in: 1) lack of electric generators, 2) lack of diesel, 3) lack of economic resources to open or maintain their operations, 4) ability to receive food and 5) insurance or Small Business Administration loans were insufficient or took a long time.
“Based on what we found, we decided to create a subsidy program that provides immediate money to entrepreneurs to safeguard their businesses and preserve thousands of jobs that are the main livelihoods of many Puerto Rican families,” said Cruz.
So far, $21,500 has been disbursed to businesses along Loíza Street, including Punto Medio, Rumors, Acapulco, Envío Mi Tierra, La Coctelera, Colmado Minimarket La Negra, Len.T.juela, Panuchos, El Tap and Double Cake.
Eligible businesses are 1) those that are closed, but may open with a subsidy; (2) those open, but with limited capacity; and 3) those open almost to full capacity.
Each case is seen on its merits and the entrepreneurs should only meet with the Centro para Emprendedores to receive free advice, covered by the Foundation for Puerto Rico fund, on how to restructure their business or market properly according to our current reality, nonprofit officials said.
“We have become the only immediate money aid that offers relief to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. So we need entities and individuals to continue to support our Hurricane Maria Relief Fund to be able to disburse aid throughout the island, as well as contribute to the other Puerto Rico redevelopment initiatives that we are working on in the Foundation,” Cruz said.
For her part, Damaris Ocasio, the Foundation’s director of Operations explained that “at the moment the owners of small and medium businesses need all the support to remain open, to revive our economy and to preserve jobs.”
“To help you in this important assignment, we enabled the ‘Puerto Rico está encendio’ digital platform. We believe it was necessary to provide a dynamic tool that serves both to make known which businesses are open, and to carry out a census of needs that allows us to be agile in the selection of businesses eligible for our help fund,” she said.
Through that site, business owners will be able to report that their businesses are operating to the general public, as well as report if they are not yet back in business.
Ocasio said in addition to letting people know that the commercial sector is already restoring its operations to offer essential services to families, it is equally important that the world also knows that “Puerto Rico has not lost our essence, that they can visit our island and provide their support,” he said.