• The Star Staff

$70 million in disaster funds still available for grants to small businesses


By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star


Economic Development Bank (BDE by its Spanish initials) President Luis Alemañy Ortiz announced Tuesday that there is $70 million in the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) Program available until July 2022 for the allocation of grants for small businesses that faced challenges in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.


During a press conference held at Yolanda Guerrero Cultural Center in Guaynabo, Alemañy Ortiz said the public entity is encouraging local entrepreneurs to request grants of up to $50,000 to allow businesses to stabilize their finances.


“Entrepreneurs who can prove they had losses after the hurricanes, who can provide tax records since 2018, and who have evidence of facing an income reduction, can apply for the grant,” he said.


Alemañy Ortiz added that the grants come from $225 million disbursed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last year to allow businesses to cover utility expenses, working capital, labor retention, job creation and equipment purchases.


“We see the eligibility, we study the case, and we determine the amount of money to be assigned,” the BDE chief said.


Alemañy Ortiz said that although the largest share of the disaster relief grants to date have gone to business owners located in Guaynabo, the entity is knocking on doors in other municipalities “so other business owners know that these funds exist.”


“Meanwhile, we made agreements with labor leaders from the private sector to spread the word about this [opportunity] through their associates so others can take advantage of it,” he said.


Meanwhile, Guaynabo Mayor Ángel Pérez Otero said he has urged his constituents to continue seeking the financial aid, which has allowed the retention of 6,179 active jobs and the creation of 3,612 new jobs.


“This is a grant, it is not a loan that you have to pay back; you just have to qualify and fill out the required documents,” he said. “There is still help available to our entrepreneurs, who I know that, through these years, after facing so many situations that affected their businesses, whether it is in the production or infrastructure industries, this financial aid will allow them to carry on and not shut their doors.”


“In Guaynabo, we established a public policy that allows us to be the ideal place to establish businesses,” he added. “Our incentives, our support for business owners when they are seeking permits, and [developing] a platform that allows them to accomplish tasks online, all facilitate their foundation and operation, and that contributes to our economic development.”


The officials made their statements after an event in which the BDE and the Guaynabo municipal government announced the signing of disaster recovery program grant closings totaling $1.3 million.


Grants were awarded to businesswoman Yesayra González Vega, María Carrasquillo Ramírez for the San Juan Art Students League, Lourdes A. Flores Ragel of Kode Services LLC, Pablo Montes Mock of Fowlers Language Services Inc. and Zaida Betancourt Solis of JB Hardware Inc.