Puerto Rico should receive the same nutrition assistance benefits, popularly known as food stamps, as US states receive, noted 28 major religious leaders from Puerto Rico and the United States. In a letter to Congress, the leaders of the largest US and Puerto Rico Christian faiths asked that Puerto Rico be included in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Unlike states, the island is under a block capped grant system, periodically renewed, that cannot expand based on need like US states.
“In spite of the recent debt reduction deal, due to the fiscal conditions accompanying it and amidst rising inflation, more families and children depend on food aid,” the religious leaders said in the letter.
The leaders of Puerto Rico churches signing the letter represent the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical, Presbyterian, Baptist Churches and the Puerto Rico Council of Churches. The Caribbean Institute of Ecumenical Action and Formation, Catholic Charities (Caritas) and the General Bible Society also signed. At the national level, religious leadership of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and Jubilee USA Network endorsed the letter.
“Poverty and joblessness remain rampant in Puerto Rico as the island struggles with economic crises and the recovery from natural disasters,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network which organized and endorsed the letter. “The funds for food aid are insufficient.”
This year, Congress will pass a Farm Bill which can set in motion a transition for Puerto Rico, as a US territory, to join the US states’ nutrition benefits program.
Read the US and Puerto Rico Religious Leaders' Letter to Congress here.