Puerto Rico Endures ‘Alarming’ Food Stamp Cuts Amid Hurricane Maria Aftermath

According to local authorities, Puerto Rico does not have enough funding to support their low-income families.

Produce section at a grocery store
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According to local authorities, Puerto Rico does not have enough funding to support their low-income families.

Over 1 million residents in Puerto Rico were hit with significant – and shocking – food stamp benefit cuts as their economy continues to deal with the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Puerto Rican authorities told BuzzFeed News there are 1.35 million people who receive benefits through the Nutritional Assistance for Puerto Rico (NAP) program. All participants in the program saw a substantial cut in their March benefits because the federal disaster relief funds they were using to help pay for the program ran out at the end of last month.

“The fact that we’ve had to reduce benefits to those that need it the most is alarming. Puerto Ricans are being treated unequally and that is unfair,” George Laws-García, the deputy director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, exclaimed.

According to Puerto Rican authorities, a senior citizen who lives by him or herself would have seen their benefits drop from $194 to $112 a month. A family of four with a monthly income of $2,000 would have benefits drop from $649 to just $410.

The drop in benefits would force the single senior citizen to budget roughly $25 a week on food and the family of four to budget $100 (or $25 per person) a week.

While the Puerto Rican Department of the Family plans to do everything they can to maintain the program for those in need, they believe if they do not receive any additional funding from the government, those receiving benefits are doomed to see another cut in their monthly payments.

Following the destruction of Hurricane Maria back in September of 2017, Puerto Rico received a relief package of $1.27 billion which provided food stamp benefits.

In November of last year, Governor Ricardo Rosselló reached out to Congress to request $600 million in additional relief funding so they could continue to offer benefits to families who were still struggling to recover from the destruction of the hurricane.

According to Rosselló, the program receives significantly less funding than the SNAP program. So, it was struggling to meet the needs of their low-income residents before the hurricane tore through the island.

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While the House passed the bill for additional relief funding, the White House was not in agreement with the additional funding as they claimed it was “excessive and unnecessary.”

According to Buzzfeed News, it was back in 1982 when Congress made the decision to remove the island from the SNAP program that is used in the states. Since that time, the NAP program receives a yearly cap of approximately $2 billion. Local authorities insisted the lower funding just isn’t enough to keep their low-income residents properly fed.

Due to the lower funding offered to the NAP program, it also has a lower poverty threshold. So, residents who would technically qualify for the SNAP program in the states do not qualify for the NAP program because there just isn’t enough money.