The office of Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and the Puerto Rico chapter of the Association of General Contractors (AGC-PR) offered yesterday a webinar detailing the status of incentives and loans that the federal and state governments are making available to address the economic impact of the pandemic.
During the videoconference, González estimated that the $1,200 federal incentive for taxpayers earning up to $75,000 per person and $150,000 per couple “could be coming in the next three weeks. In the case of Puerto Rico, it could be three, it could be four (weeks).”
As anticipated, the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to publish guidelines to clarify doubts on how to implement the incentive and the local Treasury Department will disburse it.
“The only one who can say who will qualify is the Treasury,” González said. This is because very few people on the island have to fill out the federal tax return, so the state agency is the custodian of the tax information.
On the other hand, Social Security beneficiaries will most likely receive the incentive directly from the Federal Internal Revenue Service, said González and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés, who also participated in the webinar.
According to Parés, the U.S. Treasury Department guidelines should clarify doubts about whether students over 18 who still depend on their parents would receive the incentive or not.
Federal relief seeks to avoid layoffs in companies
Another benefit still waiting for guidelines is the increase in unemployment benefits, which “will be up to $790 weekly for four months, from April 1 to July 31,” said Labor Department Secretary Briseida Torres.
The $790 cap comes from the fact that the federal benefit would be of up to $600 weekly to which the state maximum of $190 would be added.
Through federal legislation, employers “don’t have to resort to layoffs” for their employees to benefit.
“The closure of a facility is enough to make people eligible for unemployment,” she said.
And those who have seen income loss due to furloughs will also be able to receive partial payment.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefit will also be activated so that people who normally do not qualify for unemployment, such as independent contractors, can receive financial assistance.
The secretary noted that people who are on leave or whose employer is working remotely do not qualify for the benefit.
As in the case of the Treasury incentive, the Labor Department is waiting for federal guidelines to implement the incentive.
Meanwhile, Germán Hernández Garcés, of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), indicated that this agency has eased requirements and loan application processes since “here we are all affected by the disaster.”
“The goal is to inject fresh money into the local economy to boost cash flow. The money that is in circulation is like the blood in our veins. That money creates opportunities, creates jobs and creates wealth,” he said. He added that since these are “social interest loans” so businesses can continue operating, people can apply even if they are on a payment plan with the IRS or have other pending issues with the SBA.
He invited people to visit SBA.gov for more information on what types of businesses and nonprofits qualify for this incentive.