June 28, 2019

Harris, Colleagues Probe Trump Administration Delay in Providing Emergency Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 5 of their colleagues in writing a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue probing the Trump administration’s failure to release emergency nutrition assistance funds to Puerto Rico already appropriated by Congress. The Senate Budget Committee has oversight authority over OMB.

“More than a year and a half after Hurricane Maria and despite Congress approving emergency nutrition assistance funds, communities in Puerto Rico still do not have the resources they need to get back on their feet,” said Senator Harris. “The administration’s delay in delivering this assistance is inexcusable, and we need answers. We must take immediate action to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico who continue to struggle in their recovery efforts.”

Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined the inquiry into the Trump Administration’s delay in providing much-needed assistance. Puerto Rico’s nutrition assistance funding lapsed in March, which triggered widespread reductions in benefits. “We would like to know the exact status of these funds, including details regarding why funds have not yet been released to Puerto Rico,” wrote the Senators, calling on the agencies to respond by July 1st. 

The President signed the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act into law on June 6, 2019. Congress passed that legislation to provide emergency relief to hundreds of thousands of American citizens, specifically including $600 million for disaster nutrition assistance, with the understanding that the funds would be distributed as soon as possible. A recent Washington Post report, however, found that the funds may not be able to be distributed until September. The Trump administration has a history of delaying funds to Puerto Rico.  

The Trump administration originally opposed the inclusion of disaster nutrition assistance funding for Puerto Rico. Congress nevertheless made a bipartisan decision to reject the Trump administration’s exclusion of these funds.

The people of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which hit Puerto Rico over a year and a half ago. Currently, almost 45 percent of Puerto Rican households with children rely on nutrition assistance. 

To read the letter, click here.