Puerto Rico’s food stamps program, which serves a staggering 1.3 million Americans—or 43 percent of the island’s population—is on the verge of collapse, with the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Senate doing little to help.
As the Washington Post reported on Friday, Puerto Rico’s government cut the island’s food stamps benefit program by 25 percent on Monday, bringing it back to the level it was at before Hurricane Maria ripped through the island in 2017. The problem is that many, many more people use the program now than before the storm, and Congress has yet to pass a bill to increase emergency funding to keep Puerto Ricans’ benefits alive as the recovery effort inches along.
The blame here is incredibly easy to assign: President Trump and the Republican leadership in the Senate have utterly ignored the need for additional funding in Puerto Rico. The newly-elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed a bill in January, shortly after beginning its first session, to allocate more than $600 million to the territory in emergency funding. Donald Trump called it “excessive and unnecessary.” In the Senate, things aren’t going much better, according to the Post (emphasis mine):
Several federal proposals have emerged that could quickly fund the program, though only temporarily. The Trump administration has now given its support for $600 million in additional food stamp benefits for Puerto Rico as part of a broader package spearheaded by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), a spokeswoman for the senator said.
The prospects of a deal are uncertain. Perdue included funding for the Puerto Rico food stamps program in a separate bill aiming to give financial aid for farmers in states such as Georgia to improve the legislation’s chances of passing, a spokeswoman for Perdue said.
There is no vote scheduled or timeline for passage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may bring up Perdue’s legislation this month, according to another source with knowledge who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
You read that right: Perdue included funding for Puerto Rico’s food stamps as a sweetener to get Democrats to vote for his farmers in Georgia. The Post notes that progressive lawmakers—including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—are trying to push to add more riders to Perdue’s bill that would make it more closely resemble the assistance Democrats passed in the House, but McConnell is in no rush to get any of it passed. And even if that goes through, it would only fund the program until September, the Post reported. While all of this bullshit is playing out in Washington (where Puerto Ricans don’t even have elected officials to vote for their interests), Americans are skipping meals.