In the midst of the economic crisis that the Covid-19 pandemic has generated on the Island, aid from federal funds – made up of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and the federal stimulus of $ 1,200 for people, among others, they have been used by many families for the construction of swimming pools in their homes.
So he could verify THE SPOKESMAN Through interviews with representatives of companies that are dedicated to building them, who assured that the demand has been of such magnitude that there is currently a shortage of many of the materials necessary to fulfill the orders. Monthly sales have doubled and slightly more in the past few months, they argued, describing the average customer as low-income.
According to the interviewees, the average size of the pool that customers demand the most at present is 10 feet by 15 feet, whose price ranges between $ 14,000 and $ 23,000.
Henry Jiménez, owner of Caribbean Pool & Spa, told this medium that his new clients do not respond to the traditional profile of the business, and mentioned that there are many orders in neighborhoods and rural areas. “My clients were people from the upper and upper middle class, from urbanizations with access controls. That is not being seen now. It is another client, who before the confinement is investing in comforts for home entertainment. I call it the PUA pools, as many clients have used these home improvement aids, ”said Jiménez. He mentioned that 50% payments are made with manager’s checks and the remainder with personal checks.
He stressed that the trend began to be noticed after March. He does not rule out that if the current trend continues, there will be a greater shortage of particular materials for the construction of swimming pools on the Island.
Johnny Marcial, owner of Johnny’s Pool, agrees that federal aid has contributed to the upward trend. “There is a greater demand for entertainment. To this is added the heat and when federal aid arrived, they opted to invest in their houses. Our current clients are not usually the traditional ones. Before they were foreign investors who moved and quickly built a swimming pool, or people from the upper or upper middle class. Today is different, they are people from the lower and lower middle class, ”said Marcial. He expressed that they currently build an average of 10 pools per month.
For Ivette Díaz, Go Pool Spa representative, the orders have also doubled and a little more. She said that a month they built three pools and now there are between seven and eight. “The confinement has caused the search for alternatives to entertain themselves, seeing in the pools a real option,” said Díaz. She added that customers have also allocated money they had to travel for this purpose. What does this behavior respond to?
For the economist and financial analyst Gustavo Vélez, an artificial liquidity is currently being experienced that has not only been found in swimming pools, but also in plasma televisions, BBQ and air conditioners, among others. “People think this is for the long haul and they are acting on impulse. It is a financial mirage whose problem is that in the not so distant future it is unsustainable, because it is not anchored in its own financial health. If this is the case, it will cause a severe blow to stability, if the economy does not rearticulate and more federal funds do not arrive, ”he said, indicating that the great impact will be experienced in the third quarter of this year.
Vélez understands that a large part of the money that many families are spending also responds to moratoriums, payments that have been stopped for several months but that they will have to make again.
The sociologist Víctor García Toro pointed out, for his part, that in moments of crisis, behaviors change and the same parameters cannot be used to analyze a situation. He explained that in Puerto Rico the phenomenon has occurred that for many people federal aid has been a respite from a serious economic situation they are going through, while for others the matter is not so complex.
“This is a temporary bonanza. It would seem difficult to think that in the face of reality, saving is not valued. It’s about thinking about having a good time now and taking advantage of that money to enjoy it. That way of acting is the answer to how to invest your time and money. It is an irrational expense from an economic perspective, since this investment entails recurring expenses that range from energy costs to weekly maintenance (of the pools), ”she said.
Economists’ estimates suggest that in Puerto Rico the real level of unemployment is between 18% and 20%, equivalent to some 205,000 people. This increases poverty levels, which on the island already hover around 60% and places it as the second American jurisdiction with the highest unemployment and poverty compared to the other states.
They add that the financial X-ray is increasingly discouraging and supports a trend of negative social mobility, which will also affect those who are part of the middle class, who have lost their jobs or who will be forced to close their businesses.
In fact, it has been small businesses that have been most affected by the commercial stoppage as a result of the measures to combat Covid-19.