Restaurants urge Puerto Rico gov’t to approve industry incentives proposal
In the wake of the severe impact from local measures implemented to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association asked the government to consider and approve the proposal presented in October to create a new assistance or incentives program for the industry using CARES Act funds.
“Certainly, the industry is increasingly hurt as a result of this pandemic and the more restrictions there are, the more it will be affected,” said Gadiel Lebrón, executive director of the trade group known as ASORE in Spanish.
“Faced with this reality, we presented a proposal on Oct. 3 to the government to use existing funds from the CARES Act, as other states have done, to provide aid to the industry and be able to pay for the extraordinary operating expenses generated by the COVID-19 emergency,” he said.
The group also referred the proposal to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who confirmed that the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, or AAFAF, is evaluating the request and should respond in coming days, Lebrón said, adding the decision should be expedited as CARES Act funding expires Dec. 31.
“Without a doubt, the new restrictions make this request even more urgent for our industry. The biggest concern we have right now is the jobs that may be lost, as we believe that after the current executive order many restaurants will not be able to bear the burden and will have no other option but to close their doors,” Lebrón said.
“Our industry is one of the biggest job generators on the island, but some 30,000 jobs have already been lost, and we don’t want that loss to continue growing,” said Lebrón.
The submitted application is focused on getting aid that can be used to cover the cost of the safety steps that restaurants have taken inside the facilities, and the procurement of disinfection and protection equipment to guarantee the health of employees and guests.
According to the most recent survey among ASORE members, 40% of restaurants have experienced a drop of more than 50% in sales. The vast majority of restaurant owners and operators (98%) have invested in security and technology to protect their employees and customers from COVID-19. The investment amount is estimated between $5,000 and $25,000, Lebrón said.