New York - Governor Ricardo Rosselló is going to try again to get a legislation that creates a $ 100 million Municipal Recovery Fund to help mayors keep their governments afloat after Hurricane Maria shrunk their income.
Rossello had planned to send to the Legislature yesterday a new version of the bill that establishes such fund, after the first one was vetoed by the Board that controls the public finances of the Island.
In order to comply with the objections made by the Board, the Governor announced that the fund will have "transparent" eligibility requirements to evaluate the fall in municipal collections.
It also proposes to create a structure that resembles the Community Disaster Loans (CDL) program from the federal government, and specify the accounts where the Treasury Department will finance the aid.
The proposed amendments include that the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA) certify the need for the loans, which would be limited to $ 5 million per municipality.
"The Governor had submitted a bill for these purposes, which established by law the objective criteria to certify the municipal need. However, during the legislative process modifications were made to the way of allocating the resources of the Municipal Recovery Fund", indicates the Governor’s statement released yesterday by La Fortaleza.
The amendments to the original measure, which had the number 774 of the Senate, were discussed by FAFAA with the Board, in order to ensure its final approval, if the measure is ratified again by the Legislature. As it is a bill related to the budget, it requires the approval of the Board.
"I am confident that this project will be approved quickly and this way it will provide the aid our mayors need for their recovery works as soon as possible," said Rosselló, who is in New York.
Rosselló acknowledged the crisis faced by the municipalities, many of which fear being left without liquidity this spring, and said that the revised fiscal plan, which he submitted to the Board a few days ago, seeks to postpone "the reduction of the municipal subsidy that the Board originally approved. "
Municipalities also seek to have access to the line of credit of the CDL program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that Congress approved last October and total $ 4.9 billion.
The objective of the government of Puerto Rico is to obtain more than $ 4 billion of that loan. The Treasury will distribute the funds directly to the municipalities.
According to the mayor of Comerio and former president of the Association of Mayors, Josian Santiago, more than 40 municipalities may be left without sufficient liquidity to operate normally, unless they receive an injection of funds from the federal line of credit or from the local fund that Governor Rosselló is again trying to create.
To prevent the collapse, Santiago indicated that the Municipal Revenue Collection Center (CRIM, Spanish acronym) has advanced the municipalities’ months of income projections that it distributes monthly, but may need to sell old debts to comply with the rest of the fiscal year.
The mayors have already been guided on access to the federal line of credit, which must not exceed 25 percent of their budget. In the case of Comerío, with a budget of around $ 9 million and according to the evidence on the loss of income that it can provide, it could obtain up to about $ 2.25 million.
Regarding the fund that the governor proposes to create, Santiago indicated that he will wait to see the details, but that "in previous occasions there has been a distribution that has not been proportional for the municipalities that are not members of the rulig party."
Rosselló traveled to New York to have meetings with the Board and his own financial advisors. Today, he plans a press conference in the Bronx with the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.
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