Gov’t offering $400 incentive for public school students, personnel to pay for internet

By The Star Staff

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced Monday that the island government will grant an economic incentive of $400 to students in the public education system so that they can pay for internet expenses related to virtual classes until the end of the school year in 2021.

“Since the COVID-19 emergency began, we have discussed and evaluated alternatives for guaranteeing the health and safety of students, parents or guardians, and teachers,” the governor said. “Proper education is our primary concern and that is why we have invested millions of dollars in computers for all students and staff. Now we guarantee them access to the internet so that they can continue with distance educational services.”

Through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some 276,413 public school students and 26,893 public school teachers in Puerto Rico will be able to apply for the subsidy, whose total cost is $90 million.

The money should help students acquire an internet modem and pay the monthly fee for the service from now until May 31, 2021, the governor said. The deadline to apply for the service is Nov. 30.

“It fills me with satisfaction that no student will be left behind due to a lack of resources for distance education,” Vázquez said.

Education Secretary Eligio Hernández said the service will guarantee that all students and school personnel have access to the network according to their location. The subsidy will also benefit librarians, social workers, principals and counselors.

“It is important to make good use of this aid,” Hernández said.

Officials from the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish initials) helped identify the source of the federal money and the staff of the commonwealth Treasury Department implemented the electronic system to be used for the application for and disbursement of the aid.

AAFAF Executive Director Omar Marrero stressed the importance of technology in a quality online education.

“Upon request, beneficiaries of the subsidies will go directly to the service providers included in the project and the sales representatives will validate the information,” he said. “To pay for the service, mothers, fathers or guardians must have the student’s full name, the student’s number (SIE), which appears on the student’s report card, and the date of birth. Teachers will need to have their employee number, photo ID, date of birth, place of employment, and the last four digits of their Social Security [number].”

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