President Trump and his administration did grant a waiver so that residents of Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria can use their food stamps to purchase prepared food in restaurants. However, on Tuesday the NY Times and TheHill was reporting differently. The story within minutes of being posted to social media was trending on facebook.
On Tuesday the New York Times reported that the President had denied the waiver. The Hill also reported the same thing, to their credit both publications updated and corrected their posts. “The Hill” even removed their original post on Wednesday morning.
In a letter dated September 30th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said recipients of Puerto Rico’s Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP) would be able to use their benefits to purchase hot food at any store through the end of November. Usually, the program prohibits recipients from buying hot foods and other items that can be eaten “in store.” It is intended for people to purchase food in a grocery store and prepare it at home. The USDA said that they understood that the original intention could not happen due to the storm because most of the island is still without electricity.
You can read the letter here.
“We understand that at this point in time all food retail outlets in Puerto Rico are challenged by a lack of inventory, power and connectivity issues,” the USDA said in its letter. “Additionally, ATMs are experiencing connectivity issues and limits on cash.”
The NAP program covers nearly 1.3 million people in Puerto Rico, almost 40% of the population, according to federal numbers. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, had reported earlier that the waiver had been denied. Rosselló said 95% of Puerto Rico still is without power, more than a week after Hurricane Maria slammed the island.
Puerto Ricans currently receive 20% of their NAP benefit in cash. But present legislation called for that to drop to 15% on Oct. 1. The USDA reported that they denied a request to increase the cash portion to 50%, and instead allowed the 20% cash portion to stay in place for two months.
“While we are able to provide some flexibility for NAP in a disaster response, there is a need to maintain the overall intent of the NAP as defined in the authorizing legislation,” the letter said.
Credit: The Hill