• The San Juan Daily Star

Transition to SNAP would mean more food assistance for PR

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón (Photo by Pedro Correa Henry)

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón introduced federal legislation Monday to support the Puerto Rico government in a transition from the Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), giving more island residents access to food assistance.

The measure, titled the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act of 2021 (HR 5220), would authorize the U.S. agriculture secretary to appoint a task force that includes both federal and state personnel from family agencies to outline a performance plan to operate SNAP successfully.

“This is the third most important bill we have filed to fight against poverty,” González Colón said, noting during a press conference that the legislation she co-authored with Reps. James McGovern (D-Mass.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) joins other bills filed in Congress that seek to extend Medicaid benefits for five more years and include Puerto Rico residents in Supplemental Security Income benefits.

The resident commissioner said if the bill is signed by President Joe Biden, it will allow the island to receive $3.7 billion for food assistance.

According to a document provided by González Colón’s staff, a single SNAP participant would receive $234 a month for food assistance instead of $112 a month under PAN. Meanwhile, a three-member family under SNAP would receive $616 a month instead of $315 under PAN.

“The great difference between these two programs is that SNAP comes with a formula, under specific economic levels, you get your benefits accordingly; under [PAN], no, a money pool is assigned and doesn’t consider who are actually needy,” she said.

The resident commissioner noted that under SNAP, low-income residents would also qualify to receive benefits.

Meanwhile, HR 5220 would also provide the option to continue operational elements under PAN for five years to make the island’s transition to SNAP as smooth as possible.

“The transition has been one of my priorities from the beginning,” González Colón said, adding that she has been working on the issue since her first four-year term.

“However, we have had to work with the immediate needs of the program, which has resulted in several consecutive increases with emergency funding,” she added. “I believe that now, more than ever, we are ready for SNAP. The need exists and we understand the consequences of not participating in the program.”

The bill is expected to reach the floor of Congress before the end of the year.