Velázquez Bill Would Ensure Federal Food Benefits in Puerto Rico in Event of Power Outages
Washington, DC – Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has authored legislation to make federal food benefits in Puerto Rico available as cash immediately in the event of another major natural disaster. Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, all of Puerto Rico lost access to electricity and telecommunications, resulting in widespread challenges for those looking to access Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP) benefits, which are currently distributed electronically.
“Eight months after Maria, as we enter another hurricane season, Puerto Rico’s energy grid remains extraordinarily vulnerable,” Velázquez said. “This legislation would ensure that, in the event of another power outage, those who rely on federal nutrition programs could still access benefits and the help they need.”
Even before the 2017 hurricane season, 45 percent Puerto Ricans lived below the poverty line, many of them counting on the NAP program to meet their basic nutritional needs.
“Puerto Rico has undergone the most severe humanitarian crisis in the United States in any of our lifetimes,” Velázquez noted. “Yet, even before the hurricanes, the Island was suffering from extreme poverty. We owe it to our fellow citizens to do everything in our power to assist them and this legislation will ensure seniors, children and the most vulnerable have enough to eat even after another major disaster.”
Velázquez’s legislation comes as the United States Senate undertakes consideration of its version of the Farm Bill, which contains provisions related to the Nutritional Assistance Program and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
“In coming days, I’ll be working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to see this legislation approved by Congress,” Velázquez added. “Whether it is by passing this bill independently or as an amendment to a larger bill, Congress must ensure that the Island’s residents do not lose access to federal food benefits, should Puerto Rico’s electricity grid go down once more.”