WASHINGTON, D.C. – The island of Puerto Rico is one of the US territories that does not receive federal SNAP benefits. That program helps low-income people and families by providing monthly benefits to buy food. Members on both sides of the aisle are trying to include SNAP benefits for Puerto Rico in the upcoming Farm Bill.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D- NY) and Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon are both spearheading this effort. According to Gonzalez Colon, Puerto Rico has the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP). While NAP is similar to SNAP by providing benefits to Puerto Ricans with low incomes, it’s different. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, NAP receives a block grant, which is a fixed amount of federal funding each year. Unlike funding for SNAP which expands and contracts in response to need, NAP must stay within its fixed funding levels regardless of the need. NAP cannot expand when the economy stumbles or a natural disaster hits.
According to members, nearly a third of the island’s residents are food insecure and they said while the island is still recovering from major hurricanes, SNAP benefits could be a game changer for Puerto Ricans.
“You have two territories that already receive this program,” said Gonzalez-Colon. “I think the 1.4 million American citizens living on the island deserve the same nutritional benefits as their counterparts in the nation.”
“Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico are American citizens who deserve every right as American citizens,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “Congress should never have revoked Puerto Rico’s eligibility for SNAP. It was unfair and unjust in 1981 and it’s unfair and unjust today.”
Members are trying to include this in the Farm Bill that congress has to pass every couple of years. The Farm Bill has a huge impact on agriculture, how our food is grown, federal programs and more. Pennsylvania’s Rep. Glenn Thompson (R- PA) is the chair of the House Agriculture Committee. He is overseeing this massive and impactful legislation.