Congressional Hispanic Caucus puts NAP to SNAP transition at the top of the agenda

The content originally appeared on: El Nuevo Día

Leesburg, Virginia – The leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) said Thursday that it has on its 2024 priority agenda legislation that would allow a transition plan for Puerto Rico to join the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

”We have six members on the Agriculture Committee, so the Hispanic Caucus is at the table for the Farm Bill,” which seeks to include a proposal for Puerto Rico to transition from the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) to SNAP, said Puerto Rican Democrat Representative Darren Soto (Fla.) at a press conference as part of the House Democratic caucus meeting to define sets its priorities agenda for this election year.

Soto, one of six Hispanic Democrats on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, is the Public Policy Affairs vice chair for CHC, which brings together Democrats in the U.S. Congress and held one of its 118th Congress sessions in San Juan.

”We care deeply about SNAP. We care deeply about farm workers, about small family farms across the country, as well as issues like converting NAP to SNAP on my family’s native island of Puerto Rico,” said Soto, along with CHC Chair Nanette Díaz Barragán (Calif.) and fellow Congresswoman Sylvia García (Texas).

The U.S. Senate and House Agriculture committees have on the agenda the Farm Bill reauthorization, which includes nutrition assistance programs, for five years. Soto has previously told El Nuevo Día that the debate on the next Farm Bill could last into the summer and gain momentum once this year´s spending is decided.

Puerto Rico government members, from Pedro Pierluisi to Senate President José Luis Dalmau and House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, are pushing for the Farm Bill reauthorization to include the language of the bills introduced by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), seeking the island’s government can submit to the Secretary of Agriculture, a plan for transition from NAP to SNAP within six months.

A study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated that a transition to SNAP – which has work requirements for able-bodied adults between 18 and 52 (54 starting next October) – could take a decade and increase nutrition funds for the island from the current $2.9 billion a year to around $4.5 billion a year.

As part of the CHC issues conference, House Democratic Minority Whip Katherine Clark (Mass.) said that defending reproductive freedom “is the pivotal issue of 2024,” when U.S. voters go to the polls to elect the president, renew the entire House and one-third of the Senate.

Congresswoman Barragán said Americans also want to hear about measures to reduce the cost of drugs and create jobs.

She also reiterated her criticism of the Senate leadership for excluding CHC from negotiations on the failed appropriations bill that would have limited the political asylum process at the border.

”Representation matters and who is at the table matters…It is completely unacceptable that CHC would not be at the table,” Díaz Barragán said during the press conference at a hotel in Leesburg, Virginia, about 50 minutes from Washington D.C.

Last week, the CHC announced the principles will “guide the work of the CHC as the caucus continues its collective efforts to create and promote immigration reform initiatives that strengthen the nation’s values of welcoming immigrants” and reaffirmed its support for the protection of “dreamers” – those who came to the United States together with their parents – and the call for legal pathways to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The CHC also advocated for the creation of humanitarian temporary resident permit programs for family reunification that apply to additional countries, funding “community-based case management programs that decrease immigrant detention, providing alternatives that are more cost-effective and humane”, “increase funding for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for asylum processing and legal representation programs for adults and guarantee access to counsel for asylum seekers,” among other proposals.