On January 27, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi shared good news about the territory’s economic future and his priorities for the 118th Congress in a letter to congressional leadership. “Puerto Rico is in a path of progress and economic stability,” the letter began.
Governor Pierluisi pointed out that the unemployment rate on the Island is at a record low, labor participation has increased by 5%, and the economy grew 4% in the most recent fiscal year.”I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Congress’s support as we have strived to restore and jumpstart Puerto Rico’s economy,” Pierluisi wrote.
He also expressed enthusiasm for working with Congress in the coming year and asked for specific action on the part of Congress.
NAP to SNAP
The first request was for Congress to complete the transition of Puerto Rico from NAP to SNAP.
Puerto Rico does not participate in SNAP, the food stamp program currently in the states. Instead, Puerto Rico has NAP, a similar program with some important differences. It is a block grant with a cap, rather than a flexible funding source that adjusts to needs, as SNAP does.
In addition, the payments under NAP are much smaller than those provided by SNAP. “This gap exists even though Puerto Rico imports $6.5B in agricultural products from the mainland each year,” the governor pointed out.
Federal funding and taxes
In his letter, Governor Pierluisi also requested that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) be extended to the territory. This is another example of federal benefits which are severely limited in Puerto Rico. “Extension of this program in Puerto Rico would make a fundamental difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American citizens whose only distinction is that they live in Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi wrote.
The governor also brought up drug trafficking and enforcement. Puerto Rico is situated in a tempting location for drug traffickers, and the drug trade leads to violent crime on the Island. Are asked that Congress direct more resources to work on this national security issue.
Pierluisi asked that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Rum Tax Cover-Over be made permanent. He also asked for a targeted waiver of the Jones Act, which requires that U.S. ships and crews be used for all deliveries between U.S. ports. The requested waiver would apply to fuel and fuel derivatives when an emergency declaration is issued by the President of the United States.
The final section of the Governor’s letter raised the question of Puerto Rico’s political status. Reminding his readers that HR8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act, passed the House at the end of the 2022 session and did not have time to go to the Senate, Pierluisi wrote, “The political status of Puerto Rico has been unresolved since we first became a territory of the United States in 1898 and remains a blemish in American democracy.”
“I urge you to continue the important work of H.R.8393 in this Congress and not allow this important opportunity to pass by,” the governor wrote. “So many Puerto Ricans have defended American democratic values at home and abroad that lack of representation and voting rights, as well as congressional inaction, are unacceptable. Congress must call for a vote on the political future of Puerto Rico and commit to implementing the will of the majority. That is what democracy is all about.”
Read the full letter.