Governments, businesses, and residents of the five U.S. territories are poised to obtain billions of dollars in assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Most of the assistance for the territories – Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, America Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands – will be provided by treating them as States under the terms of the new law.
Two special provisions included in the CARES Act will ensure additional billions in financial support for U.S. territories and District of Columbia. First, $3 billion of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund established to cover Coronavirus-related public health emergency expenses in the 50 States is reserved for the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
Puerto Rico, which is home to nearly three times as many residents as the other jurisdictions combined, is slated to receive the majority of this funding.
This provision has angered residents of Washington, D.C., which has 235 confirmed Coronavirus cases, including three deaths.
There have been 51 confirmed cased in Puerto Rico, including two deaths.
In addition, there is $200 million set aside for the nutrition assistance programs in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. This allocation comes on top of the $100 million appropriated for these three territories in the COVID-19 response bill that became law last week.
These three U.S. territories are left out of the more generous federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as food stamps.
Unlike the tens of billions of dollars appropriated by law or administratively allocated for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which is not expected to be totally spent until the year 2032, funding provided under the CARES Act is intended to be available immediately.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colon also highlighted federal funding for Puerto Rico related to the National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, airports, and Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The CARES Act includes Puerto Rico in payments of up to $1,200 for individuals in Puerto Rico, $2,400 to joint filers, and $500 per child under 17, provided that the recipients hold valid Social Security numbers. The payments would be divided into two portions, with the initial disbursement slated to go out in April and the second installment in May.
The U.S. Senate passed the package late Wednesday evening by a unanimous vote of 96-0. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the $2 trillion relief package tomorrow, and President Donald Trump could enact it by the end of the week.
Updated March 26 at 10:21 pm.