This week Puerto Rico was forced to cut back on the food assistance program to over 675,000 people. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, the federal government increased food assistance to the island, raising to the same levels given to mainland Americans.
After political infighting and a steadfast refusal to act by many in Congress the program will be reduced to pre-Maria levels. This marks roughly a 25% cut in assistance for half of the 1.3 million residents on the program.
Breaking the Food Assistance Deadlock
The local government’s ongoing battle with FEMA for assistance money has been well documented. But the food assistance cuts are another matter entirely. There have been several proposals on the federal level to increase funding for Puerto Rico, or at least to maintain current levels.
Previous President Trump dismissed a $600 million plan for aid to Puerto Rico presented by the Democrats. The proposal was deemed “excessive and unnecessay.”
Currently Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia has proposed his own $600 million plan to extend aid benefits. Although the Trump Administration has signaled support for this plan, although there is no vote scheduled for it, nor a timeline for implementation.
Is Food Assistance Enough?
When Maria hit Puerto Rico, it caused thousands of deaths, and did an estimated $90 billion dollars in damage. To an economy that has been in a recession for over a decade, the devastation was catastrophic.
Over $1 billion in food assistance was approved as part of a $40 billion financial package for emergency recovery. Even though the food money is running out, almost half of that $40 billion has not been spent. Political bickering has prevented any long term progress from being made.
Puerto Rico needs more than food. Infrastructure, communications, utilities, economic recovery with jobs and rebuilding – all of these things are just as necessary as food and water for a permanent recovery.
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