The Trump administration is dragging its feet on delivering the $600 million in emergency funding to Puerto Rico that Trump approved more than two weeks ago.
More than two weeks after Trump signed legislation approving $600 million in emergency funding to ease Puerto Rico's growing hunger crisis, the U.S. territory has not seen a dime of the promised funds, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Emergency funding for Puerto Rico's food stamp program was a sticking point in a disaster relief package, with Democrats pushing to help the American citizens of the island territory and Republicans, led by Trump, objecting.
After multiple attempts by Republicans to block the package, it eventually passed Congress and was signed by Trump on June 6.
But since then, no emergency funds have actually made it to Puerto Rico.
Trump administration officials blame Puerto Rico for the delay, claiming the Puerto Rican government must submit a new plan for how it will spend the money and make some required systems changes. But enraged Puerto Rican officials say they are getting no help from the Trump administration.
"The situation is dire, and we are ready to submit either a plan or an amendment to an existing plan as soon as we get directions from FNS [Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service] in order to speed up the disbursement of the funds," Glorimar Andújar Matos, secretary of Puerto Rico's families department, told the Post in a statement. "Given Puerto Rico’s unfair treatment in federal programs, we are pushing to receive and utilize the funds as soon as possible."
The delay from the Trump administration is not normal, according to Kevin Concannon, a USDA official who served under President Obama.
Emergency funding to address hunger is "normally rapidly approved, because you're trying to mitigate the impact of hunger and food insecurity," Concannon told the Post. "This should be straightforward. It should not take this long. The existing program in Puerto Rico has been there for decades, and the infrastructure is used months in and months out."
While the Trump administration dithers, the hunger problem on Puerto Rico is dire. After being hit by devastating hurricanes in 2017, roughly 45% of families with children on the island rely on food stamps to feed themselves, according to the Post. The Puerto Rican government already reduced food stamp benefits by 25% to 50% for families, hence the need for emergency assistance from the federal government.
Even though he had vehemently opposed helping Puerto Rico and blocked aid for months, Trump demanded praise for eventually giving in and signing the disaster relief package. "Puerto Rico should love President Trump," he said earlier this month. "Without me, they would have been shut out!"
Trump was happy to soak up the spotlight as the American citizens of Puerto Ricans were suffering, yet he still hasn't delivered a single penny to help them.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.