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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Voucher program spells relief for families of first responders

Roberto Carlos Pagán, head of the Administration for the Integrated Care and Development of Children

By The Star Staff

With thousands of applications processed, the Administration for the Integrated Care and Development of Children (ACUDEN by its Spanish acronym) announced Monday that more than 14,000 first responder families in Puerto Rico received vouchers for the payment of child care services following the launch of the ACUDEN CARES Program.

The application process closed on Sept. 15, and more than 16,000 children have received services.

Through ACUDEN CARES, financial assistance for the payment of childcare services was provided to professionals classified as first responders. Some of the professions authorized by the federal government to receive the vouchers were nursing and emergency management personnel, police, firefighters, transportation and telecommunications sector personnel, physicians and physical therapists, and those who provide support for federal food assistance programs.

“In a way, we encourage the work of mothers, fathers, and heads of families who, day after day, go out to serve Puerto Rico from their different scenarios in emergency situations,” Family Secretary Carmen Ana González Magaz said. “The program has given them economic relief, but above all the peace of mind of leaving [their children] in places that meet the requirements of the Family Department, guaranteeing healthy and safe child care for their children.”

The program is closed to new applicants. However, the review will continue to grant eligibility to cases that meet the criteria and have applied on or before the deadline, as well as requested amendments or other services.

ACUDEN Administrator Roberto Carlos Pagán noted that “the program has achieved a historical impact.”

“We have impacted over 21,000 children in all modalities through the Child Care programs in just one year,” he said. “Generally, in previous years only 5,000 were reached. We have a team that is very committed to children, and we are delighted with the agility with which the ACUDEN staff has handled the application processes to assist families.”

Pagán added that the agency is in talks with the federal government to modify the eligibility criteria so that first responders can receive benefits through the regular program.

Vouchers were provided to families through CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds, with an economic impact of $117 million.

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