The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico offered the central government suggestions on how to spend the $2.2 billion allocation through the CARES Act to finance unbudgeted expenses related to the pandemic “in a way that is consistent, efficient, and transparent.”
“The funds provided by the CARES Act are considerable and, if used appropriately, can provide much needed support to mitigate, contain and minimize the effect of COVID-19 on the lives of the people of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican economy,” said the Oversight Board’s Executive Director Natalie Jaresko.
“The government must ensure the funds have the greatest possible effect on the response and recovery, and that they are used strategically from now until December 2020,” she said.
“We need to invest in testing and tracing, and in our healthcare infrastructure overall. In addition, the Government should focus on the areas most impacted by the measures that were taken to protect Puerto Rico from the spread of COVID-19, particularly our education system, and those who lost jobs or who lost business,” Jaresko said.
The Oversight Board suggested the government focus the use of the $2.2 billion appropriation in the following areas:
Monitoring and assessment system: Significantly increase the supply of COVID-19 test kits and purchase high-tech networks for tracking infection.
Health service infrastructure: Put in place a storage and distribution plan to manage inventory, and ration supplies and equipment like personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and virus detection tests.
Distance learning and student outcomes: Enhance distance learning to recuperate lost learning, and to prepare for a possible reemergence of COVID-19.
Small businesses: Training and coaching to help navigate the new economic reality.
Long-term unemployed: Invest in strengthening workforce development.
Reimbursement to the Commonwealth: A portion of the $500 million incremental funds that are part of the $787 million Emergency Measures Support Package may be reimbursable expenses under the CARES Act.
It what seems like a direct call for transparency, the Oversight Board will request bi-weekly fund expenditure and procurement reports from the government and encouraged the Commonwealth to publish information to allow residents to analyze all programs and disbursements.