SAN JUAN – The Union of Communications Workers of Puerto Rico, an organization that represents the workers of the 9-1-1 Emergency System Bureau, denounced this Wednesday that the funds of that negotiation are in danger and puts the response time of ambulances at the time of being activated to attend emergencies of citizens.
“Our Union with the support of Senators Henry Neumann and José Vargas Vidot, we present what is now Law 32-2020, in order to return the tools it needs to 9-1-1 and ensure that funds are protected, it was necessary exclude the negotiated Law 26-2017, which is the “Law of compliance with the Fiscal Plan”. As explained, 9-1-1 funds cannot be used to pay debt nor can they be transferred to the general fund, it does not make sense to apply austerity measures on 9-1-1 and what it has created is an increase in the response time and the reduction of resources to attend to emergencies in the country, “said Aramis Cruz, president of the Union in written communication.
He explained that on March 24, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez, signed Law 32-2020 and weeks later issued a certification of non-compliance with the fiscal plan, putting the law on hold. The union reported that Law 32-2020, which was presented by that union seeking to protect 9-1-1 funds so that they are used solely and exclusively for the attention of emergency calls as established by federal statutes. The Bureau is nourished by its own funds that come from the contribution of each citizen through their cell phone bill, residential and commercial phones, not depending on the general government fund.
According to the Union, this project was being worked on for two years and at no time did the governor or the Fiscal Control Board indicate that they were incompatible with PROMESA or the Fiscal Plan. In fact, letters held by the Union from the Executive Director of the Board Natalie Jaresko clearly state that the use of 9-1-1 Funds will be used for the purposes established in the Act and the improvement of the System.
Cruz reported that “the problem lies in the fact that, for the moment, Governor Wanda Vázquez, together with Commissioner Yazmín González, Secretary of the Department of Public Security Pedro Janer and AFAF Director Omar Marrero, submit a letter to the Board informing that no They can comply with Law 32-2020 as it is incompatible with the Fiscal Plan, despite the fact that the Government has given way to other measures whose impact on the general fund is palpable. All due to the fact that Law 32-2020 makes it impossible to divert funds as has been done in the past ”.
The Union reminded the government that for the years 2014-2017 the 9-1-1 diverted more than 24 million dollars for matters not related to the attention of emergency calls. This caused an imbalance in their finances and the integrated municipalities and response agencies received the budget items that were destined for these purposes. This created that the response time increased to almost 35 minutes putting the lives of citizens at risk. He also pointed out that under this administration funds have been diverted, such as the comparison of a vehicle for the past Secretary of Public Security, Héctor Pesquera.
“The commissioner insists that it was the Fiscal Control Board that paralyzed the Law and that is not correct. The Board clearly asked the government to justify why Law 32-2020 could be applied when the impact is to increase the budget (with 9-1-1’s own funds) by approximately $ 450,000 and the government decided not to justify the Law. In fact, 9-1-1 today is seeking to pay with 9-1-1 funds for expenses directly related to the DSP, which this law would not allow. Since the DSP and Commissioner González could not amend the law, the easiest thing was to put it aside. And that was exactly what these officials did. They thought first of their political agendas and put the safety of the people aside. We cannot allow going back. We have to defend Law 32-2020 and we will not rest until we achieve it ”, stated Cruz Domínguez.