Wanda Vázquez Garced announced yesterday the approval of the distribution plan for the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment for the residents of Puerto Rico, as part of the federal government's relief package to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés said these payments to individuals and couples, which also include the $500 for each child aged 17 or younger, could inject up to $3 billion into the economy.
"After many conversations and exchange of information with the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Treasury, we already have the approval of the guidelines," the governor said in written statements.
Vázquez Garced explained that the Treasury will be in charge of identifying eligible citizens and disbursing the aid.
The governor explained that as anticipated by the Secretary of the Treasury, in a first phase, the aid will be deposited to taxpayers “who had already filed their tax return for fiscal year 2019 and who have their bank account number available. The Department is working on the process to begin deposits as soon as possible. We will be using $400 million from the Treasury Department's fund to advance the job. That money will be reimbursed by the Treasury in the next few days."
The Treasury will offer details on the rest of the phases while working on the technical aspects for the implementation of the plan in all its stages.
The link "Pago Impacto Económico CARES Act" will be available through the Internal Revenue Unified System (SURI) in the coming days for those taxpayers who filed a 2019 tax return but did not register their bank accounts.
Jenniffer González celebrates
"You can finally count on that money. More federal funds that arrived in Puerto Rico" said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González in a video posted on Twitter.
Although it is not part of the agreed plan, González said she hopes the Treasury will accept, this weekend, that payments to Social Security and veterans beneficiaries be sent directly by the federal government.
Although the agreement is that all the money will be deposited to the Treasury on Monday, González proposed that these people can receive them directly from the Treasury to speed up the process. Otherwise, Social Security beneficiaries and veterans would have to fill out a form on the Treasury's website.
Since in many cases Social Security beneficiaries will depend on others to fill out the application, González said she suggested the Treasury that sending the checks to those people directly from Washington can also prevent fraud.
She warned that child support debts will be deducted from the check.
González said the first deposits would be made on Tuesday. The Treasury Department has announced that it will begin distributing the money to those taxpayers who have filled out the 2019 form.
Those who have already received payment
Some island residents have already received their payment, mostly federal employees. El Nuevo Día identified three cases, although those interviewed agreed to give their testimonies without being identified.
One of them is a woman from Añasco, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve who runs the Club Zero business, a store that sells Herbalife products.
In her case, she received $1,700, as she got $500 for her child. The money was deposited in her bank account three weeks ago and came at the right time as she has seen her sales decline in the business, which operates with mail order deliveries or pick-up service. She decided not to accept the mortgage moratorium the bank offered her. According to the woman, her bank told her that once the emergency is over, they would charge her for the deferred payments at once.
"I didn't know if I had to apply or if I had to fill out the form, and I hadn't discussed it with my accountant, who told me that I qualified as a federal employee," said the 36-year-old woman. "It's a relief because I'm paying for water, electricity, house and business rent."
The newspaper also spoke with a 26-year-old chef from Corozal who received a $1,200 payment on Wednesday. The young man is among the citizens who improperly filled out a form on the IRS website.
The Treasury secretary explained that these citizens will not be penalized, although the government will make sure that they don't receive a duplicate payment.
This young chef has continued to work in a restaurant in Corozal, although with reduced hours.
"But if my work continues to improve, if sales go up, I won't probably use the money for a long time," he said, adding that he knows of several people who also received the money directly from the IRS.
Another citizen, a former employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also received the payment. He currently works at an insurance company, his wife will see a pay cut in her own job.
"To a certain extent, it's been a blessing (that my husband received the payment) because I'm going to be facing a reduction in my salary. We put the money in (the) savings account so we can deal with the situation," she said.