Governor requests $1 billion from Congress for PAN
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Thursday asked Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as other congressional leaders, for the allocation of $1 billion for the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) on the island.
He also requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue a comprehensive action plan that includes Puerto Rico in a complete transition from PAN to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“We are requesting the allocation of $1 billion in funds to Puerto Rico during fiscal year 2023 through the USDA including Rural Development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other related agencies because the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Law of 1981 excluded Puerto Rico from SNAP and since then, and for more than 40 years, we have received unequal treatment compared to American citizens from the 50 states,” Pierluisi said in a written statement.
He insisted that for the successful implementation and administration of the benefits, it is extremely necessary to modernize the programming and digitization of records. Likewise the governor requested more funds to improve and expand the online services of the Socioeconomic Development Administration (ADSEF by its Spanish acronym), a sub-agency of the island Family Department (DF) aimed at low-income families, as well as the digitization of documents related to PAN beneficiaries. and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Pierluisi assured that in this way fraud will be avoided.
“We are demanding equal treatment in nutritional aid to benefit more than 40 percent of the island’s residents and 50 percent of minors who unfortunately live in poverty,” he added. “This is a matter of vital importance because no American citizen should go hungry.”
Specifically on this issue, Pierluisi signed an executive order a few days ago to establish a multisectoral task force that will present public policy strategies to Congress and the federal executive branch in coordination with the president and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Puerto Rico, the island has seen a 19 percent increase in beneficiaries of such aid, particularly aid directed to children, the elderly and disabled people.
Unlike SNAP, which is funded through a structure known as “entitlement,” which allows the program to serve all eligible individuals who apply, PAN is administered as block grants. Currently, under the PAN structure, Puerto Rico receives between 25 and 30 percent less funds than it would under SNAP.
The governor returned from Washington, D.C. on Thursday after having met with several secretaries of the President Joe Biden’s cabinet, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, with whom he discussed and evaluated the security strategy for the Caribbean Border and the trafficking of illegal firearms in the Caribbean region, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, with whom he discussed the resilience of the island’s electricity grid.