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Senate Leader Vows to Make Nutrition Assistance Equality for Puerto Rico a Priority

El Nuevo Dia broke the news last week that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has made a transition to SNAP for Puerto Rico a top priority for 2024.

Currently, Puerto Rico receives limited nutritional support under NAP, which is the “separate but not equal” version of SNAP, the national food stamp program. Under NAP, the Island receives a block grant which provides significantly less funding than the SNAP formula would offer if Puerto Rico were a state.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led Senator Schumer, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and others in introducing the bipartisan. Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act earlier this year. Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) has introduced the same proposal in the House of Representatives.  The bill would transition Puerto Rico from NAP to SNAP. Gillibrand asked in February for a full accounting from the USDA on Puerto Rico’s nutrition assistance program.

SNAP, NAP, and Equality for Puerto Rico

Senate statements

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens, not second-class citizens,” Schumer said in a statement sent to El Nuevo Dia. “The PAN block grant system discriminates against Puerto Rico and must disappear.” (PAN is the Spanish-language acronym for NAP.)

“For more than forty years, Puerto Rico has been unfairly excluded from SNAP, which has resulted in billions of dollars in lost aid and reduced nutrition benefits for more than one million of Puerto Ricans,” said Senator Gillibrand at her website. “The bipartisan Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act would correct this injustice and enable Puerto Ricans to participate in SNAP, as well as to receive Disaster SNAP in the wake of natural disasters or emergencies. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am focused on including this critical legislation in this year’s Farm Bill and I’m optimistic that we’ll get this done.”

“Nutrition assistance programs, particularly SNAP, are essential to support the health and well-being of millions of people across the United States. Unfortunately, the American citizens living in Puerto Rico do not have access to this federal program. Instead, we have a block grant that limits the assistance that can be provided to a beneficiary. This program also cannot accommodate sudden increases in demand during natural disasters or emergency situations, when vulnerable populations need it the most. Having to get Congress approve supplemental dollars is not a reliable mechanism when you are experiencing an emergency in real time. For that reason, I have filed legislation that seeks to transition Puerto Rico from NAP to SNAP. I thank Senator Gillibrand for filing the companion legislation and look forward to continue working together, alongside my colleagues in the House, to secure access to this program in Puerto Rico,” said Congresswoman González-Colón.

The 2023 Farm Bill

While the transition to SNAP for Puerto Rico was expected to be addressed in the 2023 Farm Bill, the previous Farm Bill from 2018 expired at the end of September 2023 before a the new version could be authorized.

As part of the recent continuing resolution which prevented the shutdown of the federal government, the 2018 bill was extended into 2024.  Puerto Rico’s NAP program and other agricultural issues are on the agenda for next year.

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