Given with the challenge that employers in Puerto Rico are facing due to the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce is earmarking $8 million in federal funds to reimburse up to 160 employers for certain expenses.
Economic Development Secretary Manuel A. Laboy Rivera said the funding will come from the agency’s Labor Development Program’s Rapid Response fund and Displaced Workers program, through which each employer may receive up to $50,000, once they “show the extraordinary expenses incurred through the purchase of personal protective equipment such as: masks, gowns and disinfectant products, as well as the purchase of office supplies and electronic equipment that promote social distancing, among others, have put them in a tight economic position that could result in laying off employees.”
He said the administration is offering the needed assistance to “retain the operations of businesses that are vital to address the emergency situation. We identified these funds with the intention of preventing the closure of operations in various sectors and with it, the loss of jobs,” Laboy said.
The application window will be open from April 13 to June 15 and will depend on the availability of funds. State Labor Development Board regulations state that employers may request funds during the emergency, and within the 60-days period after the end of the emergency.
The requirements to benefit from the relief program are: being a bona fide business with 500 employees or less (including those who are self-employed); being debt-free with government of Puerto Rico, or being current on a payment plan; and proving that the extraordinary expenses incurred to maintain operations or to resume them could result in the loss of its workers, said Labor Development Program Director Natasha Vazqueztell.
“In the past few weeks, we’ve seen how certain industrial sectors have stepped forward and are developing the products and equipment necessary to address the current health crisis affecting us,” she said. “These funds were identified given the importance of the business continuity of these exempt sectors. This aid is part of the initiatives we’re developing to support employers, as well as employees, so that they can keep their jobs.”
The agency confirmed it will be unveiling more initiatives to promote job retention in coming weeks.