• The San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner pushes back on UPR funding complaints

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By John McPhaul

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón on Wednesday defended her actions in obtaining a $275,000 federal grant for Ana G. Méndez University after members of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) community called it a “betrayal.”

“Supporting the UPR is not synonymous with not supporting the other universities that also render good service to Puerto Rico,” the resident commissioner said in a press release. “I have always been and will be willing to help obtain federal funds for all institutions that request them and that comply with their requirements.”

González Colón said she is a proud “facilitator for all those seeking to maximize their opportunities, and federal funding is one way of doing that.”

“I have called meetings of the UPR components and I have always put myself and I am at the disposal of my Alma Mater,” she said.

González Colón indicated that the UPR has not received similar funding because the school has not asked for it. “For those who do not know the process, I will explain that after the defense and approval of funds to federal agencies that I do in Congress, it is up to the applicants to submit their proposals,” the resident commissioner said. “I am ready to support any request made by the University of Puerto Rico and any other entity, as I have done and will continue to do.”

In an open letter referring to the recently announced federal allocation of $275,000 to Ana G. Méndez University for the promotion of agriculture, Ángel R. Ocasio Gracia, acting secretary general of the National Student Confederation, said “[t]his fact represents a betrayal for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).”

“The UPR in Utuado offers the only educational project on sustainable agriculture in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean,” Ocasio Gracia said in the letter released Tuesday, which was also signed by the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors and the Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Exempt Employees. “In turn, the Mayagüez University Campus offers various agri-environmental science programs. Both contribute immensely to the development of the agriculture industry.”

González Colón noted in Wednesday’s press release that “[w]ith respect to the UPR, in the past four and a half years as resident commissioner, I have supported the funding of programs based at the UPR during the budget review process of federal agencies, including:

“NOAA Sea Grant College Program, which includes and benefits the Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program based at UPR Mayagüez.

“NOAA’s U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), which includes the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CARICOOS) also based at UPR Mayagüez.

“USDA NIFA Grants for Insular Areas, under which UPR has received grants in the past, including UPR Utuado. “NOAA National Tsunami Hazard Program and the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, which benefit the Puerto Rico Seismic Network based at UPR Mayagüez.

“As well as supported funds for the National Science Foundation that finances several investigations carried out by the different campuses.”

“In addition, I am pleased to announce that the federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved $749,998 for the Puerto Rico Agricultural Extension (PRAES) based at UPR Mayagüez,” the resident commissioner said. “These funds will help PRAES continue to provide outreach efforts to connect and assist veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and to provide them with available information on USDA resources.”

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