• The San Juan Daily Star

House speaker: Don’t blame us if federal funds for social workers are at risk

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez

Declares Legislature in recess until Dec. 22, demands other legislation be added to special session

By John McPhaul

Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez announced late on Monday, the first day of an extraordinary legislative session, that he was declaring a recess until Dec. 22 but asked Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to amend his call convening the special session to include several measures.

“Today, the House of Representatives will be declaring a recess, and we will resume work on December 22,” Hernández Montañez said. “However, if the governor wants to address issues of true priority, such as the Labor Reform, and the law to guarantee the dignified retirement of the police, we will gladly attend to them. We invite the governor to amend the extraordinary session, and to include those measures. We will be here working.”

Regarding House Bill 911, to provide federal funds to social workers to protect abused children, Hernández Montañez said it is a managerial and fiscal problem within the Family Department itself, which the executive branch has not been able to correct, and it is they who put at risk federal funds to address the problem of children.

“This measure, even if we approve it now in this extraordinary session, cannot be implemented due to the negligence and inaction of the Family Department,” the House speaker said in a written statement. “For example, the Family Department, in order to comply with federal requirements, needs to hire 206 social workers and assign them the necessary resources to carry out their work. So far this has not happened.”

In addition, to make these contracts, the Family Department does not have the necessary funds, which is why it is necessary to amend the budget for this fiscal year, and the governor did not include a measure to that end in his call for the extraordinary session, Hernández Montañez asserted.

“Therefore, it is ineffective to approve the measure now, in December, without granting the funds for its implementation,” he said.

In January, we will responsibly amend the budget for this fiscal year to allocate the funds necessary for compliance with this law,” the House speaker said. “The truth is that federal funds are not going to be lost if we do not approve this measure in this extraordinary session. Federal funds were put at risk by the Pierluisi administration by not complying with its own internal goals, and with the federal requirements for the implementation of this law.”

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