Puerto Rico was one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to pass strict curfew and quarantine rules, and it has now become one of the first to announce a strong stimulus package in response to the pandemic.
As of this writing, Puerto Rico has had 64 cases of the coronavirus and two deaths. But most businesses are closed and residents are required to stay in their homes. Tourists must stay in their hotel rooms, too.
Puerto Rico stimulus package
Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced has announced a bold financial package including these elements:
- $500 will be provided for individuals who are self-employed.
- $1,500 will be given to small and medium businesses which have had to close.
- The government will continue to pay employees.
- Municipalities are also being asked to continue to pay their workers.
- First responders, firefighters, nurses, and others in essential jobs will receive bonuses.
- A 90-day moratorium on mortgages, car payments, and personal loans will be available.
- Power and water will not be disconnected for non-payment during the emergency.
- Unemployment insurance will be extended.
- Tablets and other hardware will be purchased for education.
- $30 million will be used to restock hospitals.
- $20 million will buy protective gear such as gloves and masks.
The Fiscal Oversight and Management Board has approved the measures, which are expected to cost $787 million.
Puerto Rico has higher unemployment and more poverty than any of the 50 States.
National stimulus package
Governor Vazquez also sent a letter to President Trump asking that Puerto Rico be treated equally with the states in the national response to COVID-19. That legislation passed the U.S. Senate as Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, and is expected to pass the U.S. House of Representatives soon.
Support for Puerto Rico is included in the national bill as well. Direct payments to families of $2400 for married couples and $500 for each child under 17, as well as additional nutrition assistance and Small Business Association loans are part of that support.