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Coronavirus in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of this writing. There is currently no evidence of community spread — contagion within the territory. All of the cases have been among travelers. This is a smaller number than most states, perhaps because Puerto Rico took quick action in response to the virus.

Puerto Rico imposed a curfew on residents and tourists, closing beaches and businesses, and restricting movement on the Island as well as travel. Most people are required to remain in their homes. Those whose workplaces are exempt from closure can go to work, and everyone can leave their homes during the daytime to shop for food or medications, or to help others do so.

The governor also requested a shut down of air travel into Puerto Rico. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering the request. Puerto Rico would require FAA approval to take this step.

Puerto Rico is vulnerable

Puerto Rico’s healthcare system is already vulnerable, with many healthcare facilities still damaged from Hurricane Maria. A shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals, a lack of supplies, and problems with transportation to healthcare facilities all mean that Puerto Rico’s healthcare system could easily be overwhelmed.

The Island’s infrastructure also still has weaknesses which leave Puerto Rico vulnerable when it comes to responding to the pandemic.

The economy

The economic consequences of the restrictions are on the minds of many. One source of hope is a $1 trillion stimulus package currently being discussed in Congress.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which focuses on physical health, has already become law. This bill mandate paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expansion and simplification of nutrition assistance, and other steps to help workers and families immediately.

The new bill is intended to support the U.S. economy during the pandemic. This stimulus package includes help for the U.S. aviation industry, small business support, and direct payments to individuals.

Checks for families

The payments to individuals would apply to Puerto Rico as well as to the States. Puerto Rico residents with incomes of less than $ 75,000 per year would receive a check for $ 1,200. Married couples filing jointly would see a payment of $2,400. Those with dependent children would receive an additional $500.

Payments would be lower for those with higher incomes.

“Preventing the spread of the coronavirus will have a tough financial impact on individuals, families, and businesses,”said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA). “These recommendations will blur the impact for most Americans and limit the damage to the economy.”

Small businesses

Governor Wanda Vazquez has asked the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an emergency declaration which would make small businesses in Puerto Rico eligible for the loans included in the coronavirus response bills.

These small business loans will have a very low interest rate of 3.75%, and recipients will not need to begin paying back the loans for a full year after they are issued. Nearly all businesses affected by the pandemic will be eligible to apply for loans up to $2 million.

These loans are intended to help small businesses keep their doors open until they are able to recover from losses caused by the coronavirus.

For Puerto Rico, requirements to shut down businesses could have severe effects, throwing many people out of work in a territory where the unemployment rate is already very high.

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