Gov. Wanda Vázquez and Manuel A. Laboy, secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) announced that a new administrative order is in effect to facilitate the permitting process for businesses.
Administrative Order OGPe 2019-11 establishes the “Instructions for requests related to the issuance and renewal of the Single Permit,” after receiving delay complaints.
With the enactment of this regulation, which adopts the legal precedents established in Act No. 19-2017, businesses that need to renew certain permits—particularly those from Health and Sanitation or fire preventions—receive the Conditional Single Permit that will allow them to run for six months.
During that permit’s validity, the corresponding government agency will conduct the necessary inspection. If, for reasons beyond the business owner’s reach, the Permits and Endorsements Management Office (OGPe by its Spanish initials) fails to complete the inspection process within the six-month period, the Conditional Single Permit will remain valid until said process is completed.
Secretary Laboy explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that businesses that enter the request for renovation will automatically have the Conditional Single Permit approved. The law is also applicable to new businesses, as long as they fall under authorized activities.
Detailing how the administrative order came to be, Laboy stated that after the enactment of the Single Permit “many cases were piling up,” and a considerable number of these were simply waiting to renew their health inspections.
“We already had plans of entering this phase of conditional permits, but because there was the issue that they piled up; we sped up that phase and, through the administrative order that the governor announced, now a business that requires a reseal can keep running once they presented their request for the Single Permit,” he said.
The Single Conditional Permit may only be approved for retail stores, commercial offices, professional offices, medical offices, barber shops, beauty salons, small shops for sale and services that do not involve preparation and/or the sale of food
However, there are exceptions to the types of businesses that are eligible to receive this conditional permit. A new Conditional Single Permit request will only be approved for retail stores, commercial offices, professional offices, medical offices, barbershops, beauty salons and small shops dedicated to sales and services that are not involved in selling or preparing foods or alcoholic beverages.
Laboy informed that businesses that handle or make food are subject to other regulatory considerations, but there is another alternative called the Occupation Authorization that is also included in the permit law and the administrative order. Those types of businesses that deal with food may be authorized to occupy and run the business for 60 days and they would also receive the corresponding inspections.
“The positive aspect of this, apart from allowing businesses to run conditionally or with that Occupation Authorization, is that the businesses do not have to request it,” Laboy stated, explaining that the business is immediately considered by entering the OGPe’s Single Business Portal.
“Once you submit the application in the system, that is something that is automatically approved if you qualify. Eighty percent of all the cases that were on the agenda for inspection qualified and are automatically being granted the [Conditional] Single Permit or the Occupation Authorization, and then they are subsequently inspected,” the official added.
There are specific cases that are not eligible to receive these temporary permits, such as dairy farms, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, hospitals, daycare centers, mental health centers and nursing homes.
Hundreds of Cases to be Approved Faster
The DDEC secretary affirmed that ever since the government announced the administrative order on Nov. 25, the OGPe has been able to noticeably accelerate some case approvals.
“At the time it was announced, which was last Monday, they were going to be able to move more than 800 cases that were in the pipeline within a matter of days. I can tell you that the day after this was announced, almost 200 cases went away, so every day they began to approve cases. Of course, the Thanksgiving break happened… but now this week we will take off again and all those cases that were waiting for qualified inspection will continue to move,” Laboy asserted.
Moreover, the day after the announcement, Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera wrote on his Twitter account: “The administrative order to address failures of the new permit law is already paying off. Today, we were able to start working on 150 cases that were in waiting. Thank you to the governor and Manuel Laboy. This is the first step of many changes that the law needs.”
La orden administrativa para atender fallas de la nueva ley de permisos ya está rindiendo frutos. Hoy pudimos comenzar a trabajar 150 casos que estaban en espera. Gracias a la Gobernadora y a Manuel Laboy. Este es un primer paso de varios cambios que necesita la ley.— Ramon Luis Rivera (@ramonluisrivera) November 26, 2019
The secretary clarified that businesses covered by the Conditional Single Permit or the Occupation Authorization are nonetheless expected to comply with inspection requirements. Therefore, if the corresponding officials determine that the business needs to make certain amendments or repairs, the owner must implement the necessary measures to meet regulations.
Editor's note: This story was published on the December 4 print edition of The Weekly Journal.