Saturday, August 8, 2020

Gov. Vázquez asks for $1.24 billion in Nutritional Assistance Program aid

By on July 21, 2020

Gov. Wanda Vázquez (Courtesy)

Writes to congressional leadership with request

SAN JUAN – Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced sent a letter to the congressional leaders requesting swift action to provide an additional $1.24 billion in emergency federal funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).

The funds would enable the government to meet the increased demand for nutritional assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration said in a press release issued Tuesday.

The governor also expressed her support for the Equitable Nutrition Assistance for the Territories Act of 2020 (H.R. 6846; S. 677) and the Closing the Gap Act of 2020 (S. 3719), which would address Puerto Rico’s nutrition disparities by transitioning the island, and other territories, into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and María, the seismic events that continue to impact the south, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the island has experienced an increase in food insecurity, the release explains.

The governor cautioned that if congressional action is not taken by July 31, the government would be forced to reduce or eliminate NAP benefits for approximately 187,040 people on the island.

“Historically, residents of Puerto Rico do not ordinarily receive the same nutrition benefits as those residing in the states because of the island’s unequal territorial status. NAP assists more than 759,000 families that are low income amid the island’s high poverty rates. Additionally, it is worth nothing that over two-fifths of all residents of Puerto Rico (43 percent) and over half of our children (57 percent) lived in poverty in 2018,” the release reads.

“Puerto Rico is on the cusp of a nutritional assistance cliff with thousands of beneficiaries currently participating in NAP at risk of becoming food insecure,” the governor said.  “The island and our people have suffered greatly the past three years, and we continue to battle COVID-19. With this in mind, our priority will be that the people of Puerto Rico receive the necessary resources to cover their basic needs. I am urging Congress to take action and ensure that our most vulnerable population can have access to the same nutrition assistance benefits as other residents on the U.S. mainland.” 

“This additional $1.2 billion in NAP emergency funding will aid thousands of beneficiaries on the island that are currently recovering from the economic distress that COVID-19 continues to cause,” added the executive director of the PRFAA, Jennifer M. Storipan. “As we continue to battle this pandemic, we will work with Congress to provide much-needed relief to low-income families and vulnerable individuals who live on the island.”