UTIER official calls energy subsidy announcement a ‘political move’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced earlier this week announced a $20 million grant award that would help low-income families pay their Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) bills, Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym) Vice President Freddyson Martínez called the announcement a “political move” on Tuesday since the subsidy is not something that was achieved by the Vázquez administration.
Martínez said the economic aid that is available to participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Nutritional Assistance programs is nothing new, something he said he knows from having worked at the island Housing Department since 1995. The only difference, he said, is that the subsidy for those who are eligible will be higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, he said, the agency must ensure that the grant award has been properly assigned.
“We must verify that the funds are actually assigned because this should not be used as a political campaign [gimmick] for the governor, where she has assigned a million dollars here and a few million there,” Martínez said. “It’s ironic [for her] to announce this now [Monday] even though this grant has existed for years. The increase [in payments] due to the COVID-19 pandemic might be newsworthy, but there’s nothing new about the rest.”
The union official also said he finds it more ironic that Vázquez released the information when PREPA’s transmission and distribution network is being transferred to Luma Energy in order to revamp the system over a 15-year period, which could render families in Puerto Rico ineligible for grant awards like the aforementioned.
“If the Luma Energy contract is not revoked, PREPA will become a private corporation, the power bill will increase, and every grant award and aid available to help Puerto Ricans pay their power bills will not exist,” he said.