The San Juan Daily Star
Senator calls for approval of bill to free up $100 million in federal funds for protection of minors
By The Star Staff
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau charged Tuesday that more than $100 million in annual federal funds earmarked for the protection of minors could be at risk of being lost due to the Legislature’s stubbornness in not approving Senate Bill 537.
The legislation would establish the “Law for the Prevention of Abuse, Preservation of the Family Unit and for the Safety and Well-Being of Minors,” which guarantees compliance with the Family First Prevention Services Act.
“In March last year, the Senate endorsed this legislation with a majority vote. In April of that same year, the House of Representatives also approved the bill, but with amendments. However, in the past two legislative sessions, reaching a consensus and reconciling a language that satisfies both legislative bodies has not been possible,” Aponte Dalmau said. “Meanwhile, the services offered to hundreds of children and young people in the country are in danger because it has not been possible to harmonize such an important public policy per the federal government’s requirements.”
The legislator emphasized that in his Carolina senatorial district alone, which includes the municipalities of Trujillo Alto, Carolina, Canóvanas, Loíza, Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Vieques and Culebra, there are at least eight residential homes that provide shelter for some 250 minors under the island Family Department, to guarantee their well-being and so that they feel in an environment that is as close to a natural home as possible.
“If we extrapolate this to the entire country and other services of the Family Department, there are hundreds of homes and minors that are being affected by this political war between the two legislative bodies, which is intolerable,” Aponte Dalmau said.
The senator added that the social effect of the delay in approving such critical public policy legislation is incalculable.
“I invite the comrades of both bodies to put the well-being of our children and youth above any consideration,” he said. “It is time for us to act with the political maturity that these times require and the country demands.”