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Puerto Rico Treasury opts into $325M federal rental assistance program

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The Puerto Rico Treasury Department has filed an application to participate in the newly announced Emergency Rental Assistance Program run by the U.S. Department of the Treasury that could represent $325 million in aid for the island, this media outlet confirmed.

The federal government is making a total of $25 billion available to assist households across US states, territories, local governments, and Indian tribes that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal agency stated.

The five territories will split $400 million as follows: US Virgin Islands ($21.3 million); American Samoa ($9.6 million); Guam ($33.6 million); and the Northern Marianas ($10.4 million). The allocations are based on the territory’s population, with Puerto Rico being the largest among them.

Through the agency’s Spokeswoman, Vilmar Trinta, Puerto Rico Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés confirmed the local government met the Jan. 12 application deadline.

“The first step, which was to file the application, was completed. Now, the Treasury secretary will discuss the matter with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and the Puerto Rico Housing Department to determine the plan to distribute the funding and run the process,” Trinta said. “That has yet to be decided and configured, but it will be determined.”

As per the US Treasury, local government has to identify an agency — other than the Treasury Department — to run and oversee the program.

The US Treasury defines an eligible household as “a renter household in which at least one or more individuals meets the following criteria:

  • Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
  • Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
  • Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median.”

To receive the aid, either the eligible household or a landlord on behalf of that eligible household must submit an application to the local government agency designated to run the program.

“In general, funds will be paid directly to landlords and utility service providers. If a landlord does not wish to participate, funds may be paid directly to the eligible household,” according to the US Treasury’s application process guidelines.

“Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of assistance, plus an additional three months if the grantee determines the extra months are needed to ensure housing stability and grantee funds are available,” the agency further noted.

The funding — which the US Department of the Treasury is expected to allocate quickly — should be available through Dec. 31, 2021.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.
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