While millions of Americans have already received their stimulus checks, "no one" in Puerto Rico has, according to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. The mayor, who previously criticized President Donald Trump over his response to Hurricane Maria, said the island is lacking necessary equipment to protect and test residents. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced's government has also struggled to fill more than 130,000 pending unemployment requests and new requests for food stamps, Cruz said.
During an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Cruz said mayors have needed the help of community and religious leaders to help distribute food to citizens. "Money is not getting into people's hands because of the current local government of Puerto Rico, and perhaps, guidelines that have not been distributed," she explained, reports Time. "But the problem is not getting the support that we need. The problem is that the support goes to the higher levels of government, and doesn't reach the people that it's supposed to reach."
The Mayor of San Juan says no one in Puerto Rico has received their $1200 stimulus money pic.twitter.com/4jSmG3feHl— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) April 25, 2020
The stimulus checks will not be distributed until the U.S. Treasury approves of Puerto Rico's distribution plan, Francisco Pares, Secretary at the Puerto Rico Treasury Department, said last week, reports News Is My Business. U.S. territories have special rules, as payments will be sent out by their individual tax authorities instead of the federal IRS. "As we complete the agreements with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury on the distribution of the Economic Impact Payment, we have already identified some 486,000 taxpayers who would receive approximately $800.1 million, in all likelihood, in the upcoming weeks," Pares explained on April 23. "In a first phase of the process, the Unified Internal Revenue System (SURI, in Spanish), identified the citizens who filed their Income Tax Return for 2019, can receive the aid."
Puerto Rico is still recovering from the 2017 hurricane and major earthquakes from earlier this year, as well as corruption scandals. On Tuesday, Vazquez defended her government in an eight-page letter to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, alleging that the territories' status makes it difficult to recover from these crises. Its territorial status has created "structural inequalities," she wrote, reports the Miami Herald.
"These inequitable policies lead to an overall quality of life in Puerto Rico that is below the standard of the states in multiple respects," the governor wrote. "This disparate quality of life is the primary reason for Puerto Rico's ongoing population loss, which is detrimental to Puerto Rico's tax base, labor force, consumer demand, debt repayment capacity, and overall prospects for economic growth."
Puerto Rico has 1,537 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, reports The New York Times. The island's death toll stands at 92. Nationally, there are just over 1 million confirmed cases, and the death toll stands at 61,881. Just over 6 million Americans have been tested and 125,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.