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U.S. Government Increases PR Spending By $600m, 21.89% Fed Funds Increase Under Calderon Touted… Gonzalez Claims Education Funds Go Unused… 'Fly Free' To PR… Miranda Says Racetrack Bankruptcy Won’t Affect Operations… Amy Back In Saddle… Hernández Colón Campaigns For PDP… Disaster Recovery Update, Eastern Towns Receive FEMA Aid For Jeanne

Federal Government Increases PR Spending By $600 Million

October 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The U.S. government increased its Puerto Rico spending by $600 million during fiscal year 2003-2004, according to a report from the federal Office of the Census.

For the fiscal year that recently ended, the federal government spent $14.6 billion in Puerto Rico, in contrast to the $14 billion spent in the previous fiscal year.

The statistics, reviewed by the press, reveal that of the total figure for fiscal year 2003-2004, $8.3 billion went to retirement funds, benefits for the disabled, and other programs directly paid citizens.

Economist Jose Alameda said two of every three dollars in federal funds received by Puerto Rico are binding obligations of the U.S. government with the Puerto Ricans that have supported programs like social security, Medicare, pensions and veterans services.

Calderon’s Chief Of Staff Touts Increase In Federal Funds

October 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — At a time in which Gov. Sila M. Calderon has hinted that the alleged lack of defense of her work by the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) bothered her, the governor’s Chief of Staff announced an increase of 20.89 percent in the amount of federal funds received during her leadership.

Cesar Miranda said the increase in funds received by the Calderon administration, in comparison to the previous term, has been $2.5 billion.

"The increase has been 20.89 percent in federal support, that shows the great work that Puerto Rico is doing in Washington in various forums," he said at a press conference that seemed to highlight the work of Calderon as much as that of the resident commissioner and PDP candidate for governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vila.

Some PDP leaders have said Acevedo Vila’s political campaign has not defended Calderon’s leadership in order to distance him from her image.

Gonzalez Claims Education Funds Go Unused

By Istra Pacheco

October 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Although it has until September 2005, the Education Department has not claimed $165 million in funds assigned by the federal government for various education programs, New Progressive Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez said on Tuesday.

The legislator said the funds were assigned in October 2000 and have been available since July 2001.

"Merely denouncing acts of corruption in the past, does not promote education in Puerto Rico. The Calderón-Acevedo administration has had three-and-a-half years to claim these funds and they have done nothing," Gonzalez said at a press conference.

"If they are going to wait until the last minute…that is their responsibility," she said when questioned about why she is denouncing it if a year still remains for the funds to be claimed.

Education Secretary Cesar Rey was not immediately available for comment.

Gonzalez said the Education Department must return more than $3 million that was meant for the Title I program because it allegedly was used for payroll.

Under the New Progressive administration of Pedro Rossello, between 1993-1997, the Education Department lost $52 million in federal funds that weren’t used in the established time period, according to an audit released in March 2004.

On that date, Rey said that they were "in a claim stage," with the federal Education Department for almost $24 million that corresponds to fiscal years 2000 and 2001 that was not used.

The Secretary said then that to avoid repeating the situation they had modernized the delivery of audit reports to federal agencies, increased the number of audits from six to 35 and created an independent group responsible for controlling the use of funds.

An official memo issued in August 2004 by the U.S. Congress Investigation Service revealed that Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions with an increase in the percentage of federal funds for the Title I education program.

Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa Invites Travelers To 'Fly Free' To Puerto Rico; New Offer Makes Unforgettable Last Minute Vacations Affordable

October 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Business Wire. All rights reserved. 

LAS CROABAS, Puerto Rico - (BUSINESS WIRE) - Oct. 19, 2004 - The Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door(R) Spa in Las Croabas, Puerto Rico is giving guests a great reason to 'fly south' this winter with the Fly Free to Puerto Rico program. Based on travel between Oct. 19 and Nov. 24, 2004, guests will receive two free airline tickets when booking a special five-day/four-night "Fly Free" package from New York City (JFK and Newark airports). Package rates at Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa start at $599 per person based on double occupancy, including airfare, transfers to and from the resort and hotel tax and tariff.

Above package rates include complimentary round-trip midweek air via American Airlines, five-day/four-night hotel accommodations (ocean view upgrade at time of check-in based on availability), airport transfers to and from resort and hotel tax and service charge. Guests are responsible for all other taxes and airport fees. Package is based on a four-night minimum stay, and based upon availability.

Travelers departing from additional cities will receive an air credit of $175 per person (maximum of two persons). For more information or to book this package, travelers should contact Liberty Travel at 1-888-271-1586 or their preferred travel partner.

Government: Bankruptcy Won’t Affect Racetrack Operations

October 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Chief of Staff Cesar Miranda said Tuesday assured the approximately 8,000 workers who depend on the island’s racing industry that the government will guarantee the continued operations of the El Comandante racetrack.

Miranda made the announcement after Housing Development Associates (HDA), the firm that owns the racetrack license and is affiliated with Equus Gaming, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Delaware.

"At the root of the bankruptcy process, the government of Puerto Rico is going to take all measures permitted for the racetrack to continue operations for Puerto Rico," Miranda said during a press conference.

He said the government is considering several alternatives, among them selecting a temporary operator or granting a license that guarantees the "ongoing successful operation" of the racetrack.

'Banned' Amy Back In Saddle


October 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Jockey Jose Amy, banned from riding nearly a quarter-century ago by the N.Y. State Racing and Wagering Board for his role in the infamous Con Errico race-fix scandal of the 1970s, returned to the saddle yesterday at Belmont Park for the first time since 1980.

Amy, 51, finished eighth in the fourth race on 44-1 Julia's Signal for trainer Dom Galluscio, but afterward you would have thought he had won the Triple Crown.

"Everyone is entitled to a mistake. We're all human beings. The main thing is to recognize the mistake and make sure it becomes a lesson."

Amy, in exchange for immunity, testified in a 1979 trial that after first refusing he accepted a bribe from Errico to hold horses after Errico threatened his family. Though Amy was not convicted of a crime, his license was permanently revoked.

Amy returned to his native Puerto Rico and rode there for 16 years. In 2001, he was granted an exercise-rider's license in New York. The SRWB gave Amy the go-ahead in September to resume his career.

Hernández Colón Campaigns For PDP

October 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Ex-governor Rafael Harnández Colón joined other leaders from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) who are trying to win votes from among anti-statehood voters on behalf of their PDP gubernatorial candidate, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá.

With only 15 days to go before the general elections, the PDP released a TV ad in which Hernandez Colon indicates that the political destiny of the island must be decided by Puerto Ricans, and he speaks of the "sales tax" as the precursor for a statehood treasurer.

"They intend to eliminate the Commonwealth [option] from the plebiscite ballot, the intend to impose 'sales tax'. That should not be the way that our future is decided," indicates the ex-official.

"Vote to guarantee our democratic rights. Vote so that our future remains in your hands. Vote for Aníbal Acevedo Vilá," he adds.

Disaster Recovery Update

Department of Homeland Security Documents

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

October 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. All rights reserved. 

To date, $139,235,115 has been approved in federal disaster assistance to eligible applicants in the 57 declared municipalities. This aid includes grants for basic needs, such as essential repairs, alternate housing and other disaster-related needs not met by insurance or other assistance programs.

As of today, 87,845 residents in the declared disaster area have applied for disaster assistance, by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) toll-free teleregistration line, 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585). Both lines are available daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, until further notice.

Eastern Towns Receive Aid For Tropical Storm Jeanne Recovery

October 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Federal Agency for Emergency Management (FEMA) said that Barranquitas, Canovanas, Humacao and Yabucoa have received $8 million each in individual aid for residents, making them the towns that have received the most help for recovery after tropical storm Jeanne.

According to press reports, Loiza, Orocovis and Toa Baja got more than $4 million each, while Caguas, Naguabo, Naranjito and Río Grande received about $3 million.

After tropical storm Jeanne passed over Puerto Rico Sept. 15, 57 towns were declared disaster zones and qualified for individual monetary aid to replace lost possessions and repair homes.

At present, FEMA has awarded $115 million to about 84,000 people, the agency said.

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