Science Trust, Housing Dept. launch improved Re-Grow Puerto Rico aid program
Less than a year after Re-Grow Puerto Rico was launched and addressing the concerns of the agricultural sector, the Puerto Rico, Technology and Research Trust together with the Housing Puerto Rico Department have implemented improvements to the program.
The initiative, which feeds from with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-DR) Program funds, seeks to expedite access to farmers, fishermen, ranchers, beekeepers and agro-entrepreneurs, among others.
“As a sub-recipient designated by the Housing Department to manage the Re-Grow PR program, the Trust has always been open to listening and addressing the complaints of the sector to improve the application process,” said Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo.
“We’re confident that these improvements will expand the opportunities for more members of the sector to apply for and benefit from this economic development incentive,” she said.
Some of the improvements to the Re-Grow Puerto Rico program include: elimination of the empirical credit requirement greater than 550 as a criterion to determine that the project is financially feasible; for fishing operators, the Vessel Registry and/or Fishing Statistics will be accepted as an alternative to the documentation of the lease, property or purchase contract of any property that is part of the commercial operation; and the assistance of the Help Centers has been extended in person in Camuy, Río Piedras and San Lorenzo.
To guide and facilitate the application process, additional in-person centers will soon be opened in the central area of the island, the nonprofit confirmed.
All these flexibilities have been possible through the efforts of the entities, which will “continue to create better links with agencies and other organizations for the benefit of applicants.”
The Re-Grow team has completed to date a total of 32 in-person and virtual programmatic and orientation events, adapted to the restrictions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
Re-Grow PR has already provided more than $1.1 million in funds to workers in the agricultural sector linked to livestock, fishing, production of bananas, chili, coriander, recao, among other products.
“As the program has evolved, providing funds has been streamlined while improvements have been outlined in internal processes and increased the capacity of the support team that allows us to have a more agile allocation of funds,” said Bárbara Rivera, director of the Re-Grow Puerto Rico Program at the Science Trust.
“We’ve assumed the implementation of this CDBG-DR recovery funds program destined for the agricultural sector with all the sense of responsibility and commitment that the Trust requires and distinguishes, and with the openness to urgently meet the needs expressed by the members of the ecosystem,” she said.
“Behind Re-Grow there’s a team of Puerto Rican professionals dedicated to ensuring the success of this program to provide the segment with the boost in economic development that it so badly needs,” Rivera added.
In addition to the assistance offered free of charge through the help centers, also available in person by appointment, the Trust has activated Colmena 66 to meet the need for support in the preparation of Business Plans.
Colmena 66’s help will make it possible to link agro-entrepreneurs with organizations and resources that provide mentoring and guidance for this purpose.
The program also calls on the entire food production community to make use of official program resources available free of charge through the help center.