Without Federal Help, Puerto Rico Will Have a Food Crisis

About 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico depend on the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) to supplement their ability to buy food for their families. The program is set to run out of money next month.

Per an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy and research organization, one-third of the food benefits distributed to a staggering 1.3 million people will be cut, if Congress doesn’t approve another block grant for NAP. It is Puerto Rico’s version of SNAP (the supplemental food benefit program which functions here on the mainland). To make matters worse, 100,000 people on the island will lose the benefit altogether.

According to the analysis, the maximum food assistance for a family of four could decline from $649 a month to $410, for example.

“This isn’t money that Puerto Rico is using for some vanity project. It’s not like a shiny new terminal at an airport. It’s literally money for the most basic of needs which, in this case, is food,” Javier Balmaceda, a senior policy analyst at the CBPP, said.

Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the island and its people are often treated poorly in respect to policies. Puerto Rico used to participate in the Food Stamp Program (FSP), but that changed in 1982.

The NAP program puts Puerto Rico at an unfortunate disadvantage, though. Because the money is distributed in block grants, there are funding caps that cannot be increased, even if demand requires it.

The federal government approved nearly $1.27 billion in additional NAP funding to help meet the increased demand for food benefits, following the devastation caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma. The Puerto Rican government has requested an additional $600 million.

Although both parties in the House and Senate want to approve the funding, the White House is adamantly against giving Puerto Rico any more money.

The Trump administration has called the request “excessive and unnecessary.”

Given the fact that Puerto Rico still hasn’t recovered from the harrowing effects of both hurricanes, it’s diabolical to think that this administration would even consider adding further stress to an already dire situation. Holding food, which is one of the three basic needs of all people, over American citizens’ heads is reprehensible.