Jenniffer González-Colón introduces legislation to include Puerto Rico in the Supplemental Food Assistance Program
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) of Puerto Rico introduced HR 5220 along with representatives Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of the United States House Committee on Rules, Jayana Hayes (D) of Connecticut, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations at the House Agriculture Committee, and Darren Soto (D) of Florida, to transition Puerto Rico from the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) to the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP).
Unlike the 50 states, Washington, DC, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico does not participate under the SNAP program, which provides monthly benefits to assist qualifying families in the purchase of food. Puerto Rico runs the NAP program instead, which receives a limited amount of grant funds annually and offers fewer monthly benefits compared to SNAP. In addition to the limitations on the availability of funds, the NAP does not automatically accommodate changes or increases in demand, which are most notable in the aftermath of disasters and other emergencies, such as Hurricane Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic. They tend to increase the number of people who need the NAP and require Congress to authorize additional emergency funds to meet this demand.
HR 5220 would authorize the Secretary of the federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) to appoint an advisory board with staff from USDA and the Department of the Family to produce a state plan that outlines a suitable plan for the transition from NAP to SNAP. The plan would later have to be submitted by the government of Puerto Rico to the Secretary of USDA for approval and certification to operate SNAP. The proposal also authorizes the Secretary of USDA to continue approved elements under the NAP program for a period of up to 5 years to accommodate the efficient transition from one program to another, as well as a potential overlap between both programs and avoid any interruption in services or benefits.
“Puerto Rico needs to offer nutritional assistance that is adaptable to the needs of the island. SNAP relies on funds that cover changes in demand and offers more monthly benefits than NAP. This impacts the health of residents, as well as the local economy. This legislation is a step in that direction. I remain committed to working on this transition and will continue to work with the USDA and my colleagues in Congress to achieve a secure transition,” said González-Colón.
“The Rules Committee has been organizing a series of roundtables examining the famine in America. Over the summer, we heard from local leaders, including the secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Family, Carmen Ana González, on solutions to end hunger in US territories. The bottom line is that the status quo is unfair and does not respect the people who live on the island, ” mentioned Chairman James P. McGovern. “It is time that we develop a plan that respects all American citizens, including those residing on the island of Puerto Rico. I congratulate Congresswoman González-Colón for her work in presenting this legislation for Puerto Rico’s transition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ,” added Chairman McGovern.