Sen. Riquelme asks US House speaker to expedite approval of SNAP for island
By THE STAR STAFF
Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera has asked the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to expedite the approval for Puerto Rico of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would enable the entry into the island of over $4 billion in aid to low-income families.
“For years Puerto Rico has been struggling to get approval for the SNAP food purchase assistance platform. The entry of this program would represent an increase from $2.5 billion to $4 billion in direct assistance to over 1.5 million Puerto Rican families receiving food assistance benefits, currently under the Nutrition Assistance Program [PAN by its Spanish acronym],” Riquelme said Thursday in a written statement. “We call on Speaker McCarthy to act on behalf of American citizens living in Puerto Rico by moving legislation that makes SNAP viable as soon as possible.”
The call to McCarthy, who after 15 votes in the lower chamber of Congress managed to ascend to the speakership, came hours after the Republican House majority approved the rules that will govern the next two years of legislative work in that body.
“These days, both the federal House and federal Senate are beginning the work of the 118th Congress and these next several months are vital for the approval of measures, because after July the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. will be marked by the presidential 2024 cycle,” added the at-large senator, who said she will be communicating with the office of the new House speaker in the coming days. “That is why it is urgent that we work on this issue immediately. The implementation of SNAP is an act of justice for American citizens residing on the island.”
SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program, providing benefits to low-income individuals and families.
Currently about 1,547,000 citizens are eligible for PAN benefits; of those, 56.65% are women. Of the 873,321 households receiving PAN assistance, 25.5% are made up of older adults, 22% are families with children, 14% are low-income workers, 6% include family members with disabilities, and 3.5% are university students.
Like PAN, SNAP also allows the beneficiary to enter the workforce for up to five months without losing benefits, helping those families stabilize finances in the face of a new reality.
Last February, Riquelme filed Senate Concurrent Resolution 29 requesting that Congress approve SNAP for Puerto Rico.