U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today announced the inclusion of $614 million in the recently passed government spending package, which will provide increased food aid to Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. Gillibrand previously wrote to Senate leadership urging the inclusion of increased food aid to Puerto Rico in the recently passed spending package. The funds will be distributed as block grants through Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP).
Gillibrand also previously wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to expand P-EBT coverage to Puerto Rico, which would impact nearly 330,000 school aged children who are eligible for P-EBT but were unfairly denied when The Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) was passed in March.
“No child, no matter where they live, should have to go to bed hungry, just as no parent should have to know the pain of being unable to provide healthy food to their families. Sadly, many Puerto Rican families are facing hunger due to the pandemic’s devastating impact on Puerto Rico’s economy and communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to have fought for this much needed funding to help ensure that Puerto Rico has the resources needed to tackle food insecurity across the island.”
The economic impact of COVID-19 has pushed nearly half of Puerto Ricans into hunger. According to a recent George Washington University survey, 40 percent of families reported food insecurity due to pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, that figure was about 30 percent.
Gillibrand, along with Senators Harris and Sanders, introduced The Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020 which would allow Puerto Rico to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Puerto Rico residents do not have access to the same federal assistance to combat food insecurity that is available to individuals on the mainland, further exacerbating a hunger crisis compounded by recessions, hurricane devastation, and the COVID-19 public health pandemic.
Read the text of the letter to Senate Leadership here.