March 01, 2019

Warren, Blumenthal, Menendez, and Sanders Call on Congressional Leadership to Address Expiring Food and Nutrition Benefits for Puerto Rico in Final Disaster Relief Bill

In today’s letter, the senators also urge negotiators to include critical programs to address infrastructure, education, and housing needs on Puerto Rico

Washington, DC – As negotiations continue on a supplemental disaster relief bill, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on Congressional leadership to ensure that the final package address the imminent expiration of food and other nutritional benefits for thousands of eligible Puerto Ricans.
Unlike fellow U.S. citizens living in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and the United States Virgin Islands, eligible Puerto Ricans do not have access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but receive food and nutrition benefits through a separate, finite block-grant appropriation – currently set to run out in March. If Congress fails to act, thousands of families in Puerto Rico will lose access to a program that ensures they are able to put food on the table – and which is available to U.S. citizens in every other part of the country.
In today’s letter, the senators also asked negotiators to ensure that the final disaster aid package include “sufficient post-hurricane resources to address the massive infrastructure needs to put Puerto Rico on a pathway towards long-term economic recovery.” The senators outlined several critical programs from previous supplemental appropriations bills that should be included in order to support the island’s ongoing recovery.
In the months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Warren has:
  • Sent a letter, along with five of her colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to Chairman Lamar Alexander to once again request that the Committee hold hearings to assess the challenges facing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

  • Introduced the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act, to prevent President Trump from diverting funds appropriated for disaster relief to building a border wall.

  • Introduced the U.S. Territorial Relief Act, a bill to provide an avenue to comprehensive debt relief for Puerto Rico and other disaster-ravaged U.S. territories so they can recover and rebuild.

  • Worked with Senator Bernie Sanders to author a "Marshall Plan" for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This comprehensive legislation would address the immediate humanitarian needs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that the islands are able to recover and rebuild.

  • Introduced the Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act of 2018, a bill to activate the DHAP program to provide stable housing for survivors of major hurricanes, allow survivors who lack legal documents to use alternative proof to receive disaster assistance, and allow survivors to use disaster assistance to obtain title to their land.

  • Led the Massachusetts congressional delegation on a trip to Puerto Rico to conduct oversight of Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

  • Led a group of 22 Members of Congress in questioning FEMA and HHS about the Puerto Rico death toll, including about the small fraction of applicants who had been approved for federal funeral assistance and how the government was updating its disaster preparation plans in light of this new information.

  • Led a group of 13 senators in demanding that the federal government take steps to ensure that the official fatality count in Puerto Rico was accurate. The death toll at the time was just 48, though numerous reports indicated that actually far more people had died.

  • Reintroduced with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) a bill to establish a "9/11-style" independent commission to investigate the federal response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
For more information about Senator Warren's work fighting for robust recovery efforts for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, visit