Seven Democratic senators sent a letter to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, asking for an explanation of the delay in disbursing funds for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico.
Signers of the letter included Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).
Congress appropriated $600 million in additional nutrition assistance funds in June, but the funds are not expected to reach Puerto Rico until September. SNAP (food stamp) payments have been reduced since funds ran short in March.
“We are requesting information,” the Senators wrote, “as to why funds that Congress appropriated to respond to an emergency will take three months to reach the people of Puerto Rico.”
The letter asked several specific questions:
- Has the USDA submitted request to OMB to release the emergency funds? If not, why not?
- Has the OMB released the funds to distribute to Puerto Rico? If not, why not?
- Does the government in Puerto Rico need to submit to USDA a new disaster plan or an amendment to the existing disaster plan?
The senators requested a response “no later than” July 1st. The Sanders website has a press release about the letter but so far reports no response from the USDA or the OMB.
Puerto Rico relies heavily on imported food, and many families have suffered from food insecurity since Hurricane Maria. More than a million people receive nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico, and 670,000 had their benefits reduced in March.