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Senate Proposal Seeks to Reinstate Puerto Rico into Federal Nutrition Program

On May 1, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released key points of the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, a long awaited legislative proposal that reauthorizes major national agriculture programs, most notably federal nutrition assistance.  Among the Senate bill’s many provisions is a proposal to return Puerto Rico into the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The same day, U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) unveiled an overview of a related House proposal.  The House bill did not include a transition from Puerto Rico’s current Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), characterized by its capped, limited funding, into SNAP.

The two bill introductions mark the beginning of the next phase of consideration of U.S. agriculture policy originally scheduled for 2023.  It is unclear whether Congress will develop a compromise between the two initiatives introduced last week and enact a final “Farm Bill” into law before Chairwoman Stabenow retires at the end of the year, but the policies contained in the bills are due for reauthorization and there is a recognition that Congress must act.

In a post on “X” Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi celebrated “Puerto Rico is closer to achieving inclusion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP. The chair of the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. Senate, @SenStabenow, announced that provisions that include Puerto Rico were integrated into its Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act project.  I appreciate the support and multisectoral management that has been part of our efforts to communicate to Congress the urgency of this transition to provide social justice to the most vulnerable populations on the Island.”

USDA Secretary: NAP to SNAP Transition “in the foreseeable future”

NAP or SNAP?

NAP and SNAP both are nutrition assistance programs, but there are significant differences between the two.

Nutrition Assistance is Different in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was originally included in the national food stamps program. In 1982, as a cost-cutting measure, Puerto Rico was dropped, even though the U.S. Virgin Islands is still included in the federal program.

While SNAP reimburses states for their food expenditures for needy residents, Puerto Rico has a set amount, about 25% less than they would receive under SNAP. The territory must try to meet the needs of residents with these limited funds.

This requires adjustment of the requirements for eligibility and the amounts of aid given. It prevents Puerto Rico from responding appropriately to emergency situations like natural disasters or the pandemic, and causes a need for the territorial government to ask for emergency adjustments from Congress on a fairly regular basis.

Nearly half of Puerto Rico residents require nutrition assistance because of low incomes, and 85% of food consumed in Puerto Rico is imported, so food costs are sometimes higher than in the states. Nutrition assistance is considerably lower because of the numerous limitations of NAP.

The Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act

The Senate’s new bill specifically authorizes Puerto Rico to transition its nutrition assistance program to SNAP over a period of not less than 10 years.  It also provides funding for costs relating to transitioning Puerto Rico from the nutrition assistance program to SNAP.  No further details on the transition are available at this time.

Puerto Rico is also included in a provision to give people in far-flung areas like Alaska and Hawaii more flexibility on how to accept food commodities.

 

The post Senate Proposal Seeks to Reinstate Puerto Rico into Federal Nutrition Program appeared first on PUERTO RICO REPORT.

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