Puerto Rico residents continuing to recover from the impacts of recent hurricanes could be eligible for increased nutrition assistance, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government announced.
This temporary assistance will be distributed through the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), beginning March 1. NAP is administered by the USDA and is operated by the Puerto Rico Department of the Family.
The grant was made possible by the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017, and delivers an additional $1.27 billion. These funds will allow Puerto Rico to expand assistance to additional households, and increase the benefit amount for current and new participants on a temporary basis. The new maximum allotment for a family of four will be $649.
“The people of Puerto Rico still face immense challenges, as the island recovers from multiple hurricanes,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “This grant fulfills the Administration’s pledge to support the recovery and our commitment to ensuring that residents of Puerto Rico get the vital nutrition assistance they need to move forward.”
NAP in Puerto Rico is a different program than the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) operated in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NAP is a block grant with a set amount of funding annually and the program must operate within that amount.
This supplemental funding is intended to augment the assistance available through NAP. This grant specifically recognizes the sustained economic disruption faced by the island. As they recover from back-to-back disasters, these funds will help low-income Puerto Rico residents put food on the table.
“Our thanks to the U.S. Congress and Secretary Perdue for providing this grant that helps the American citizens who are residents of Puerto Rico. This grant is part of a collaborative effort with our team at the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Family, and the Administration of Federal Affairs of Puerto Rico in Washington D.C. who have succeeded in showing that our people face unprecedented challenges after two catastrophic hurricanes,” said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
Through the grant, Puerto Rico has the flexibility to create a plan to provide temporary benefits for victims of the hurricanes in a way that best suits their population and the ongoing needs on the island. In developing this plan, the Commonwealth considered existing program structure and available resources to ensure benefits are provided to those in need while maintaining customer service and program integrity.
Throughout this process, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is responsible for providing technical expertise and guidance to ensure compliance with the law.
The Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Grant announcement is the latest of USDA actions to help residents affected by disaster. Other USDA FNS food assistance for disaster relief that has occurred in Puerto Rico include: the School Meal Flexibilities program, the Disaster Household Distribution program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net.