Faced with criticism about delays regarding the $1,200 for individuals, Wanda Vázquez Garced asked yesterday Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to urge the U.S. Treasury Department to approve the plan to distribute the funds allocated by Congress to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
The governor, who has had limited public appearances and meetings with the press, used her Twitter account to inform that the local Treasury Department is ready to disburse the funds and that the federal endorsement would be the last step to complete the distribution of the money.
"This morning I spoke with our resident commissioner @Jenniffer2012 to urge the @USTreasury (U.S. Treasury Department) to approve the plan to distribute the $1,200 federal dollars to our people, in light of the refusal of the Board (to advance the payment). The @DptoHacienda (Treasury Department) is ready to disburse them (the payments) once the plan is approved," Vázquez Garced said on Twitter.
The governor posted the message after holding a conversation with the Resident Commissioner, who has recently criticized the governor for her decision to keep the kitchens in school cafeterias closed.
González, meanwhile, responded by stating that "given the urgent need of PR, I continue in communication with the Treasury to demand celerity in the approval of the $1,200 plan submitted by the Treasury. I have been doing so since we achieved the inclusion of Puerto Rico to receive this stimulus and it was approved in the CARES Act in Congress."
González supports the governor's rival in the PNP primaries, Pedro Pierluisi.
Previously, the government had asked the Oversight Board to use resources from the General Fund to advance the distribution of this money, but the entity determined that they had to wait for federal approval.
The Board also proposed to use a good portion of the federal funds to pay for the incentives approved at the state level to address the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.
Yesterday, the Fiscal Agency & Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA) asked the Board to give the approval to proceed with a $500 disbursement for taxpayers and retirees as part of those local incentives. In written statements, the Board indicated that they received the proposal yesterday, at 1:39 p.m., and urged the government to provide the economic analysis that supports it.
Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea, in statements made to the public TV station, indicated that on Thursday the U.S. Internal Revenue Service said it would evaluate the plan for the distribution of funds proposed by Puerto Rico along with the Treasury Department.
"They decided to do a concurrent review with the U.S. Treasury," he said. Accordingto Parés Alicea, that concurrent review should be completed this week and go to high-ranking Treasury officials for its final approval.
The official said he believes that this joint evaluation was implemented to speed up the analysis process and to have the Treasury Department's recommendations from the beginning.
"The guidelines of the plan have not been in controversy," he said. "The only critical point here is the decision the Treasury will make about payments to Social Security participants and veterans that don't file tax returns," Parés said.
"Our position is that to improve the scope and effectiveness of this program, the U.S. Treasury should deliver these payments directly to them as it would do to U.S. citizens living in the states. They have a different position and have submitted this to a board that has not issued its recommendations and would go to the (U.S. Treasury) Secretary for approval," he added.
Parés Alicea did not anticipate when people would receive the money. He said that as of April 27, they were ready to issue the payments.
The Resident Commissioner's recent criticism was not limited to the refusal to reopen the school cafeterias, she has also raised objections to the delays in the delivery of unemployment assistance and has questioned the request to the Federal Aviation Administration not to allow flights from jurisdictions with high rates of contagion such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
On April 20, in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, González asked to expedite the approval for the distribution plan since U.S. residents in the mainland had received the checks. Three days later, the governor sent her own letter demanding the plan's approval by April 27, a matter that did not materialize.
On April 22, the Puerto Rican government received $2.2 billion allocated by Congress to help the island address the coronavirus emergency. But a week after receiving it, and more than a month after the CARES Act was signed into law, they have not decided how to distribute it.
The Board - which has submitted its own plan for the use of those funds - wants to divert $500 million to pay for, in large part, the $787 million in local stimulus measures.