The US Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize government aid to Puerto Rico in March before leaving for a recess. Now more than 40 percent of the people in Puerto Rico are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for food and other essentials.
The federal government provided additional food stamp aid to Puerto Rico right after Hurricane Maria in 2017, but that aid stopped and while Congress may address the issue soon, the lapse underscores the vulnerability of the Puerto Rican people to the whims of the federal government.
Puerto Rico gets its funds through a block grant from the federal government, which needs to be renewed regularly. Puerto Rico will also need the federal government’s help to stave off drastic cuts to health-care programs for the poor and disabled.
In meeting on Feb. 22, Trump asked advisers about ways to limit federal funding going to Puerto Rico.
After initially vowing to reject the food stamp funding, president Trump agreed to the emergency request to help pass a broader disaster relief package, which may be taken up for a vote.
Puerto Rico’s government first started cutting benefits for food stamp beneficiaries by an average of 25 percent during the first week of March. By the second week more than 670,000 people had received reduced food stamp payments. By Friday the cuts were in effect for the entire program.
Congressional lawmakers knew of the deadlines for months.