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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Nonprofits urge passage of bill that would give them priority to obtain unused public structures

The Finance and Budget Committee in the island House of Representatives has before its consideration Senate Bill 1396, which proposes to amend the Fiscal Plan Compliance Law to allow nonprofit and community-based organizations to have the first option in the sale at an adjusted price or the donation of unused properties. (Johanna Sánchez)

By The Star Staff

A coalition of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) wants the island House of Representatives to pass Senate Bill (SB) 1396, making it easier for NPOs to buy unused public or abandoned private properties.

The House Finance and Budget Committee has before its consideration SB 1396, which proposes to amend Act 26-2017, better known as the “Fiscal Plan Compliance Law,” to allow nonprofit and community-based organizations to have the first option in the sale at an adjusted price or the donation of unused properties.

“The proposed amendment to Law 26-2017 supports NPOs, facilitating their access to unused properties so that they can reuse and revitalize them,” said Rubén Estremera, the coalition’s coordinator.

The legislation declares a public policy of finding the best use for Puerto Rico government properties that are not being used to obtain revenues for the Treasury. In addition, it is encouraged that real estate properties that are currently in total disuse can be dedicated to activities for the common well-being.

From health care, housing, community self-management, entrepreneurship, culture, environment, natural disaster emergency, education and support for vulnerable populations, nonprofit entities have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the well-being of citizens, according to the coalition. A recent study by Estudios Técnicos Inc. (2022) has underscored the significant growth of the impact of NPOs in crucial areas such as economic development, education and social services. The increase not only underscores the relevance of those organizations, the coalition said, but also their ability to occupy spaces of social support that are left behind by government limitations.

The coalition said the bill’s tools for nonprofit organizations are now more relevant than ever, highlighting the crucial role NPOs play.

“The beginning of hurricane season reminds us that these organizations have been critical in responding to emergencies and providing services to those affected,” it said.

The organizations that make up the coalition, including the Alliance of Community Leaders, United Way, Puerto Rican Diabetes Association, Center for Habitat Reconstruction, Sila María Calderón Center for Puerto Rico, Sor Isolina Ferré Center, Cantera Pro-Development Neighborhood Council, Peninsula Project de Cantera, Business Support for the Cantera Peninsula, Escape, Techos Pa’ Mi Gente, VOCES Coalition for Immunization and Health Promotion of P.R., Los Buenos de Patillas, Network for the Rights of Children and Youth, Centro Comunitario Vida Plena, Familias Capaces Inc., Community Initiative and Hogares Crea, asked the members of the Finance and Budget Committee to prioritize the bill on their agenda.

The proposed amendment also contemplates the inclusion of representatives of NPOs in the Real Estate Evaluation and Disposition Committee, guaranteeing their active participation in the decision-making processes related to the management of unused properties.

“If this amendment is approved, it will be a significant step toward strengthening the nonprofit sector in Puerto Rico, by creating public policy that supports and promotes the work we do,” Estremera said. “It is a recognition of the valuable contribution to the development of our society and ensures that we can continue with this commendable work effectively and sustainably. We call on the House of Representatives, specifically on the body’s Finance and Budget Committee, to promptly attend to the approval of SB 1396, for this legislative session ending on June 25, 2024.”

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