Some senators question the ability of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH), Carlos Rivera Santiago, to assist the thousands of unemployed who have not yet received payment of unemployment insurance and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA, for its acronym in English).
More than two months ago the Senate confirmed Rivera Santiago as secretary of this agency in the hope that he would improve the response to those affected by the pandemic. However, the complaints of the unemployed against the agency do not cease.
Senate Vice President Henry Neumann attributed the failures of the agency to the bureaucracy in the DTRH and the lack of creativity of the secretary to work in extraordinary circumstances such as those that the Island experiences due to Covid-19. “You have an untenable situation right now because people are desperate. In my senatorial office – which is now obviously closed – there was not a day that we did not receive at least 30 calls or visits from people who have been waiting months for their unemployment check and who depend on that check to survive in these times so difficult. ”
Neumann was one of the New Progressive senators who voted in favor of the nomination of Rivera Santiago as Secretary of Labor. The minorities of the Popular Democratic Party, the pro-independence senator Juan Dalmau and the independent senator José Vargas Vidot voted against his holding the post.
The San Juan legislator warned in an interview with EL VOCERO that the desperation of Citizens lead to acts of violence, such as those that occurred this week at the headquarters of that agency in Hato Rey. “It is a situation that I know of, but it depends on an agency head, who once he recognizes the procedures and compliance with the law, to execute in the necessary way. That puts all the employees to attend to the unemployment issue, that they work overtime, that they work on weekends and that they be creative because they are things that have not happened in the past, "he said.
He said that Rivera Santiago should bet on creativity to handle the emergency and look for alternatives to streamline processes. “The important thing about an agency head is that he be honest, but also that he be creative in solving problems and that he does not become the problem. It is already unsustainable that for months that money has been available for distribution and that it is not in the hands of the people. It is dangerous because it can lead to more acts of violence by desperate people, ”he warned.
Laggard personnel are denounced
On the other hand, popular senator Aníbal José Torres denounced that he received information that personnel who knows about the management of the unemployment program has been “left behind” during the pandemic, which causes the delay and deficiencies in processing the applications of the unemployed.
“In public view we had warned the Country that the problem in the Department of Labor was a problem of disability, administrative disorder and the absolute control of a small group of trust that do not allow the effectiveness in the care of the unemployed. We warned them publicly and at the hearing we told the nominee, for the record that the PPD voted against his appointment and nothing has changed between the administration of Briseida Torres and Carlos Rivera, "he said.
In addition, he questioned the capacity of Rivera Santiago to attend to the matter of the emergency. “There is no reason why that (the delay in unemployment payments) is happening, since it is not a problem of funds. It is a problem of capacity; there they hire personnel to do the work that is supposed to be done by Department of Labor personnel who are not allowing them to do it, "he said.
" Local offices and centralized personnel. They want to keep everything in the bureaucracy and do not have the adequate personnel to address the unemployment problem, "he added.
Rivera Santiago's confirmation in the Senate raised controversies and public hearings for alleged racist actions while he served as a juvenile attorney in the Department of Justice.