By The Star Staff
Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish initials) executive director and Puerto Rico Secretary of State Omar J. Marrero Díaz offered information Monday on the distribution of around $2.2 billion under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).
The CARES funding progress report in Puerto Rico revealed an impact on the island’s 78 municipalities as well as 189,355 self-employed workers, 25,198 small businesses, 1,258 midsize businesses, 181,206 students and educators, 1,110 hotels and businesses dedicated to tourism and 58 public and private hospitals, as well as 72 diagnostic and treatment centers (CDTs), according to data from the AAFAF.
“We are pleased and proud of the work we have done at the AAFAF for the efficient disbursement of CARES Act funds and ensuring transparency in it,” said Marrero, who added that the agency contributed to the strategic design and implementation of 25 assistance programs to maximize the impact of program funds.
During the awarding and disbursement of CARES funds, Marrero said the agency maintained 100% compliance in financial progress reporting to the U.S. Treasury Offiace of the Inspector General.
The AAFAF chief also provided an update on the disbursement of federal relief funds under the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSFRF) program, which recently surpassed $1.5 billion, out of a total of $2.47 billion allocated to the central government for distribution.
“This places us in a leadership position among the other states and jurisdictions of the United States as we continue with the responsible and effective disbursement of these funds that are so important for the recovery of Puerto Rico,” said Marrero, who clarified that there is an additional item within the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that totals $1.6 billion, which was distributed by the federal government directly to the municipalities of the island.
Among the strategic priorities addressed under the CSFRF funds, around two-thirds focus on public health and quality-of-life projects, especially for disadvantaged communities, and ensuring the sustainability of government operations, the official detailed.
Other priorities are aimed at stimulating economic development, particularly in the tourism sector, and providing continuity to transparency, compliance and accountability measures in government affairs, he added.
In 2023 alone, the AAFAF channeled the approval of several CSFRF funding items, including over $65 million in incentives and increases for first responders, $30.7 million to address landfills in several municipalities, $21.1 million for sporting events and facility rehabilitation from the Department of Recreation and Sports, $15.3 million for Aqueduct and Sewer Authority projects in several municipalities, and over $15 million in funds for infrastructure repair and improvements in government services in several agencies.
Additionally, $10.3 million went to address infrastructure issues in several municipalities, $7.5 million to the Infrastructure Financing Authority to address various infrastructure rehabilitation initiatives, $5 million to address coastal erosion according to Executive Order 2023-009, and an additional $3.6 million to the Department of Justice for the rehabilitation of the witness shelter, among other items.
“To date, the impact areas of the $1.53 billion that has been disbursed include more than 26,000 school repairs, almost 68,000 “Premium Pay” incentives for hospitals and CDTs, some $125 million in tourism investment and perhaps more,” Marrero said.