Governor announces $5,000 incentive for teachers

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced on Monday that for the essential work carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, some 42,000 employees of the Department of Education (DE) will receive an incentive of $5,000, which represents an outlay of federal funds of $200.2 million.

The governor also announced that school cafeteria employees will receive an additional special payment of $5,000 for their work during the emergency.

“We are happy to announce an incentive like this for our Department of Education employees who have been working hard during the pandemic,” Pierluisi said at a press conference. “This commitment to our children and youth deserves to be recognized and encouraged. These government officials have the most important task of all, which is the education of an entire generation and therefore the future of Puerto Rico.”

The governor said the disbursements from the initiative will be divided into two semi-annual payments through the Treasury Department and will be deposited directly to the bank account of each of the agency’s employees. One payment ($2,500) will be made in December and the second payment ($2,500) will be made next May.

The money is part of the Fiscal Recovery Funds related to the coronavirus pandemic, and is distributed through the ESSER Program, which allows payment to education workers and the payment of overtime for keeping schools open and safe.

The governor added that an additional retroactive “premium payment” was authorized for some 3,868 school cafeteria employees who have worked during the COVID-19 emergency.

“School cafeteria employees risked their lives in the midst of the pandemic when vaccines were not yet available,” Pierluisi said. “They did it because of the commitment they have to their work so that our children receive their food. I recognize that effort, I appreciate it and for this we have identified funds so that they receive a payment of $5,000 paid through a special payroll that will be reflected during the month of August and has been coordinated with the Treasury Department.”

The governor noted that over $21.7 million in federal funds were identified for the payment to cafeteria workers. Those employees will also receive the incentive that the rest of the DE employees will receive.

The governor, along with assistant secretaries from the DE, also offered an update regarding the return to school in August. Some 231,775 (88 percent) students will receive face-to-face classes five days a week, while about 30,649 students (12 percent) will have classes in the classroom for one to three days; of those, only 1% will have only one day in person.

The governor noted that the DE continues to use the Department of Health protocol that was revised and published on July 22. However, each school, using that protocol as a guide, carries out its operational plan according to the particularities of each campus.

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