Under pact, CPAs to guide small businesses receiving federal help

By The Star Staff

Economic Development Bank (EDB) President Luis Alemañy González and Certified Public Accountants Association Executive Director Jaime Sanabria signed an agreement Monday that will allow recipients of federal Small Business Financing (SBF) program grants to receive mentoring and orientation from association members.

Through the agreement, participants in the program will attend a seminar, followed by personalized workshops and mentoring that could be extended up to five hours individually. The EDB currently has 40 business owners and future business owners enrolled in the mentoring program.

“Today we announce this historic agreement that seeks to protect small and midsize businesses. With this agreement we are offering an extremely valuable and free of cost service to every businessman, merchant and entrepreneur who tries to open up or expand a business,” said Alemañy González, who took over as EDP president three months ago. “The certified public accountant [CPA] is an indispensable tool on the path that thousands of Puerto Ricans travel when they dream of establishing a successful business. At the Economic Development Bank we are extremely grateful for the great role of the Association in this innovative, practical and fundamental initiative.”

As a general rule, the participants who may benefit from the program are those who do not have the services of an authorized public accountant.

Program participants may contract the services of participating volunteer CPAs, free of charge, as long as the regulations and laws governing the profession of certified public accountant are complied with.

The agreement, among other matters, will make the names and contact information of the participants available to authorized public accountants so that they can receive financial advice free of charge.

“This has the purpose of helping entrepreneurs to maximize the use of the grant or loan granted, so that they can have a successful business,” Alemañy González said.

The bank provides help to small businesses and, recently, closed up to 350 loans to businesses totalling some $28 million, a move that helped preserve 5,000 jobs and helped create 2,000 more.

The CPA Association said it was part of its fiduciary duty to help those in need.

“The Certified Public Accountants of Puerto Rico in exercising its role to advance and seek the socioeconomic development of Puerto Rico, collaborates with the Economic Development Bank as a confident adviser for the benefit of the bank’s clients and business owners in search of the development of their business, on issues of relevance and expertise of the Association,” said Rosa M. Rodríguez Ramos, president of the CPA Association. “Given the EDB’s approach to enter into this type of alliance, we are certainly very excited about the opportunity and have been in conversations to coordinate this effort, which includes aspects of general orientation, as well as certain practical sessions on topics that are being identified as of greater interest. We hope that this collaboration will be of benefit to these small and midsize entrepreneurs through the knowledge and experiences that the CPAs that participate in this project can contribute.”

The business owners attending the press conference were all women. One of them, Yamilette Negrón, an owner of Coquetas Fashion in Cabo Rojo, said she obtained a Community Development Block Grant that will help her business continue to grow.

Mabel Rodríguez said she opened a natural products shop in Vega Alta in February and obtained help from the bank. She hopes the mentoring will help her grow her business.

Mónica Agosto, who is preparing to open a restaurant called Me Vale Madre, said the bank has been a great help and she is now in the process of looking for workers and learning to maintain her business.

Separately, Alemañy González on Monday came out against legislation that would allow the EDB to provide services to the medical marijuana industry, citing concerns about bank secrecy laws and risks related to federal funds.

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