Puerto Rico left out of federal funding from Education, Interior
The United States Department of Education provided financial support to select territories and freely associated states’ education sectors in mid-May, but not to Puerto Rico.
$172 million has been allocated for the purposes of stabilizing and maintaining both primary and higher education. These funds have become available from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The following are considered eligible regions: American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the US Virgin Islands (USVI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau. Notably, Puerto Rico is not on the list.
Now, the Department of the Interior has reached out to governors of territories and freely associated states in late April to receive more block grants (amounting to $55 million) for general aid from the CARES act. Again, this invite was not directed towards Puerto Rico.
It’s not quite clear why Puerto Rico was left out from these invitations, but Puerto Rican governor Wanda Vázquez Garced (NPP, R) has issued a call to action on the health care sector to apply directly for more relief in paying off health care expenses or fallen revenue from the pandemic.
“We welcome this funding from HHS, which will provide much-needed resources to Puerto Rico’s healthcare sector as the island continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This second tranche of funds provides an opportunity for our hospitals, physicians, clinical laboratories, and medical providers to have access to available federal funding under the CARES Act,” Governor Vázquez said. “This funding will provide aid to those heroes currently giving their all during this COVID-19 pandemic. To them, we give our thanks for their hard work and commitment during these difficult times. We will continue to ensure their safety as they put their lives on the line to save those affected by this virus.”
Puerto Rico has already received $2.2 billion (in addition to stimulus checks for eligible residents), which Governor Vazquez said would be used to maintain “the well-being of all citizens amidst this fight against COVID-19. This way, we will have the liquidity to mitigate the fiscal impact and make viable various programs for Puerto Ricans”.
The CARES Act appropriated $55 million to the Interior Department office that provides assistance to the territories and true freely associated states (nations) that have very small populations. Puerto Rico was not included because President Kennedy shifted responsibility for Puerto Rico matters to the Office of the President at the request of Governor Munoz Marin. Puerto Rico was treated as a State under almost all provisions of the law.