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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mayors Federation seeks guarantees from fiscal board on $150 million in COVID emergency funds

Puerto Rico Mayors Federation President Gabriel Hernández Rodríguez

By The Star Staff

Mayors Federation President Gabriel Hernández Rodríguez has requested through a letter to the Financial Oversight and Management Board the approval of $150 million to ensure that essential services in the 78 municipalities are not interrupted if President Joe Biden signs into law legislation rescinding certain uncommitted funds intended for the COVID-19 emergency.

The proposed law calls for COVID funding that has sat dormant for over two years to be rescinded without delay.

“It is an extremely worrying situation for the municipalities if, in effect the law called the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023” is approved, since those unspent funds sent to municipalities provide essential services to citizens in the area of health, education, and security, services to the elderly population, solid waste collection and management services, among other essential services for the well-being of residents,” Hernández Rodríguez warned in his letter addressed to the executive director of the oversight board, Robert Mujica.

Hernández Rodríguez, who is the mayor of Camuy, said the law will change the State Fiscal Recovery Funds received by the municipalities through the American Rescue Plan Act. Therefore, the oversight board’s approval and disbursement of $150 million to cover essential services in favor of Puerto Rico’s towns is urgent and essential, he said.

He pointed out that the $150 million assigned in the certified Fiscal Plan comes from the $300 million that has not been earmarked and is recurring until 2027.

“Given the current scenario, it is necessary to allocate the funds to the municipalities as soon as possible so that the services offered to residents are not interrupted due to the lack of economic resources,” said the mayor, who urged the oversight board to carry out the necessary steps to achieve the disbursement of funds.

On April 19, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), unveiled the Republican proposal to raise the debt limit. The Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 would raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, or suspend it until March 31, 2024, whichever occurs first. The bill also cuts federal programs and services, blocks student debt relief, adds work requirements to Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, rescinds unspent COVID aid, and repeals parts of the Inflation Reduction Act. The House passed the bill on April 26 by a 217-215 vote.

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