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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House resolution asks Congress to legislate SSI for island

Rep. Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez

By John McPhaul

The New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation in the island House of Representatives on Tuesday filed Concurrent Resolution 48, which asks the United States Congress to legislate to give equal treatment to the residents of Puerto Rico in terms of the right to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The measure will be translated into English and sent to all members of Congress.

“SSI is a federal program that provides benefits in addition to Social Security to blind, disabled, and elderly people with little or no income. It also provides hospitalization services and other necessary health aids,” said Rep. Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, the NPP minority leader in the lower chamber, in a written statement. “The average beneficiary in the 50 states of the union receives about $590 each month from the SSI program. This would represent a great help for our most needy people. That is why we ask Congress for legislation that makes SSI viable on the island through the law.”

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against granting SSI to Puerto Rico during the discussion of the case United States of America vs. José Luis Vaello Madero (No. 17-213-GAG).

Puerto Rico could receive up to $1.95 million annually, according to a report signed by the General Accounting Office (GAO), and published in 2014. The GAO estimated that, if Puerto Rico were a state, more than 360,000 residents on the island would qualify for SSI payments.

It is estimated that there are around 950,000 people with special needs on the island, many of whom would qualify for some type of benefit through the program. SSI would provide an additional helpline to those most in need, Méndez Núñez said, adding that it is unfair to deny American citizens access to the program for being residents of the territory of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico currently receives federal funds through the Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled program, which represents, on average, about $74 per month per person. In total, only about 35,000 people qualify for help from that program.

With SSI, the universe of beneficiaries would increase almost 10 times and benefits would increase by 600 percent.

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