Rep. Velazquez, Senator Sanders Introduce Territorial Equity Act of 2021, Sweeping Reform for Parity for U.S. Territories
Washington, D.C. – Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have unveiled legislation that would help Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa gain more equitable access to federal programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and popular tax credits.
“As it stands, the people of Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories are not afforded the same access to federal funds as states on the Mainland,” said Velázquez. “This is not only morally wrong but has delegated residents to a second-class status and exasperated social and economic inequalities. That is why I'm proud to partner with Senator Sanders to introduce this bill that takes the bold action needed to extend critical federal assistance to the territories.”
“The people of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.” Sanders said. “The legislation we’re introducing today stops unequal treatment of the territories, and will put an end to inequities in federal law that have allowed too many to fall behind in almost every measurable social and economic outcome.”
The Territorial Equity Act of 2021 would:
- Provide the territories with the same need-based, open-ended Medicaid funding that is currently available to the fifty states and the District of Columbia by eliminating the arbitrary cap on annual federal Medicaid funding and increasing the federal matching rate for the territories’ Medicaid expenditures.
- Address Medicare disparities by updating hospital reimbursements and increasing funding for the territories to provide prescription drug coverage to low-income seniors.
- Extend the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to all U.S. territories
- Provide equitable treatment for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with respect to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
- Allow Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands to transition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Provide equity for Puerto Rico on labor issues, specifically regarding the minimum wage for young employees in Puerto Rico and parity for overtime laws.
The House version is co-sponsored by Representatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY); Ritchie Torres (D-NY); and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ).
The text of the bill is available here.