House Approves Velazquez Puerto Rico Amendments to Disaster Funding Bill
Washington, DC – The House of Representatives has approved two proposals authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) aimed at assisting Puerto Rico, as the troubled island continues recovering from economic hardship and historically catastrophic hurricanes. The amendments were approved as part of H.R. 268, a supplemental spending bill that appropriates additional funding for disaster assistance.
“I want to thank Chairwoman Lowey and all my colleagues for passing legislation to help Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and other parts of our nation affected by recent disasters,” Velázquez said. “I’m especially appreciative that the Chairwoman worked with me to pass two amendments that will help address nutritional and environmental challenges in Puerto Rico.”
H.R. 268 included $600 million in funding for the Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico, the amount requested by the Governor of Puerto Rico to ensure residents of the island continue receiving vital nutrition assistance. In addition, the House approved a Velázquez amendment that would appropriate funding to study how properly funding NAP helps the Island, ensuring food security and well-being for those who live there.
“I thank my Democratic colleagues for securing $600 million for the NAP program, so we can continue providing food assistance to the people of Puerto Rico as they continue recovering from the historic damage from Hurricane Maria,” Velázquez said. “This is a lifeline of funding that Congressional Republicans failed to include in previous appropriations bills and I’m pleased to see it passed, today. In addition, my amendment would provide additional resources to carefully examine the NAP program, look at disparities between how it functions in Puerto Rico versus the mainland and begin building the groundwork to address food insecurity on the Island for the long term.”
Velázquez’s amendment appropriates $5 million to conduct an analysis of how the NAP program functions with the intent of improving performance.
The House also voted to include legislation authored by the Congresswoman to help address a longstanding environmental sore spot in Puerto Rico. For decades, Caño Martín Peña in San Juan has been a repository for sewage overflow, mercury and PCBs. The canal was once a navigable and commercially used channel. Today, it is so clogged that it is possible to walk across it on some parts. Due to the clogging, the approximately 25,000 US citizens who live near the Caño Martín Peña face significant public health and safety challenges. Combined storm water and the regional sewer system contribute to high concentration of coliforms in the channel and the waterway frequently floods after heavy rains putting residents into direct contact with polluted water.
Exposure to these polluted waters cause elevated risk of gastrointestinal diseases and a higher prevalence of chronic diseases and asthma. These ailments have been detected in children 5 years old and younger. Velázquez’s amendment would appropriate $25 million for dredging the channel, an important step toward environmental remediation.
“For decades, Caño Martín Peña has been an environmental sore spot in San Juan and a health hazard for surrounding communities,” said Velázquez. “For the families and especially children who live in the surrounding area, flooding of contaminated water from the canal represents a serious public health threat. With thousands of structures continuing to discharge sewage into the canal and the presence of Mercury, lead and PCBs, we have an obligation to see the remediation of this troubled waterway. My amendment would allocate additional federal resources to help resolve this problem and I thank my colleagues for helping pass it.”
The Emergency Supplemental bill, with Velázquez’s amendments passed the House by a vote of 237 to 187. The legislative package now moves to the Senate for consideration.