(March 30, 2021 – San Juan, P.R.) – Today the secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Housing (PRDOH), William Rodríguez Rodríguez, signed six subrecipient agreements that allow access to nearly $20 million to different organizations through the CDBG-DR Workforce Training (WFT) program.

The first organizations to receive the grant are the Delivery and Services Community Education Program, Inc. (P.E.C.E.S. for its Spanish acronym); YMCA San Juan; the Municipality of Yabucoa; Dewey University; Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico; and PathStone Corporation.

“The Workforce Training program allows us to prepare Puerto Rico’s residents with the skills needed to secure employment in industries that will propel our island’s economy in the next decade. With these agreements, we continue to fulfill our commitment to accelerating the distribution of funds to achieve the reconstruction and workforce that are so needed through training,” explained the secretary.

Financing the program, which has a budget of $90 million, will support the creation of workforce training programs throughout the entire island through a recovery grant of up to $5 million.

Rodríguez Rodríguez also emphasized that “this program seeks to involve industries such as construction and its related fields, tourism and hospitality, technology, agriculture, and marine construction, among others because currently, they have or will have training programs that form part of Puerto Rico’s economic growth.”

The signing of the first six agreements took place at P.E.C.E.S., Inc.

Specifically, the president and chief executive officer of this organization, José J. Oquendo Cruz, said that “at community-based organizations such as P.E.C.E.S., we are ready to be part of a fair recovery process that allows for greater integration of resources from our communities so that the socioeconomic development Puerto Rico desires can be based on justice and solidarity.”

Oquendo Cruz also commented that “through these recovery funds, we are being offered an opportunity to contribute to improving our quality of life and promoting the country’s potential to have a workforce that is trained, entrepreneurial, and that has a of hope and improvement. I thank the Department of Housing and the Government of Puerto Rico for allowing us to contribute to our beloved Puerto Rico’s development.”

For her part, the executive director of the YMCA San Juan, Mabel Román Padrón, pointed out that “we feel very proud to participate in the Workforce Training program and to promote the creation of socially responsible ventures. We are stalwart in our commitment to working in partnership with the government, private organizations, and communities in order to support Puerto Rico’s sustainable development.”

Román Pabón added that “these funds will be invested in helping to develop and provide business training to 80 residents from low-income communities in the municipalities of Rio Grande and Luiquillo, with a focus on sports and recreation, recreational outdoor activities, renewable energy, and agroecology.”

The eligible entities are professional and commercial associations, community-based development organizations, municipal governments, public universities or institutions, agencies or administrative departments within the Government of Puerto Rico (state agencies), and for-profit entities authorized under 24 C.F.R. § 570.201(o).

Another of the grant’s recipients was the municipality of Yabucoa. Its mayor, Rafael Surillo Ruiz, emphasized that “in the Municipality of Yabucoa, we’ve decided to use the Workforce Training program’s funds to establish a technical college that will prepare our young Yabucoans and residents from neighboring towns for high-demand fields such as soldering, electricity, tourism and hospitality, construction, customer service, among others, which will serve as an incubator for new talent that will contribute to rebuilding our community of Yabucoa and our Puerto Rico through their own respective specialties.”

On the other hand, the president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, Olga Ramos Carrasquillo, expressed that “the workforce education program we’ve named EmPowe is an expansion to the employability project that Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico began in 2018 as part of the two-generation focus implemented by Vimenti for reducing systemic poverty through three program areas: educational, social, and economic.”

Ramos Carrasquillo added t hat “the program has been a success that has begun to impact the parents of Vimenti School, which is located at the Ernesto Ramos Antonini Housing Project, and which—one year after its implementation—has reduced unemployment from 42% to 16%.

The president of Dewey University, Carlos A. Quiñones, said that “one of the greatest challenges Puerto Rico is facing is the development of a productive, robust, and well-focused economy. The decisions to be made are both urgent and complex. The role of universities in this process is crucial. Developing a new workforce that will reclaim the country requires a solid foundation in the new technological, social, and economic realities. A workforce that faces the urgent reality of having to exhibit new and more complex skills. That is the task we are expected to address and that we must thoroughly and diligently fulfill.”

Lastly, the vice-president of Direct Services at PathStone Corporation, Jeffrey D. Lewis, said that “we are delighted to partner with the government and mayors, who are vital in the delivery and success of our efforts. Through these funds, we will provide over 1,000 low-income individuals an opportunity to gain the occupational skills and credentials recognized by the industry for which they’ll be trained so that they can gain and retain employment in the desired professional fields.”

Similarly, Lewis concluded that “the long-term results include greater employability, lifetime income and self-sustainability, factors that are economically significant for these individuals and their families, as well as to their employers and communities.”