About 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents have seen cutbacks to their food-stamp assistance because Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization of additional aid that had been provided in the wake of Maria. A searing report by The Post’s Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey detailed the impacts of the cuts: HIV patients made to sit in soiled diapers that health-care workers can’t afford to replace, families forgoing meat and vegetables, worrying if they can afford milk and eating less. A significant portion of those receiving food stamps, research shows, are children, elderly or disabled. “It’s very hard. It is so unfair. That cut is going to kill us,” said the administrator of a clinic that treats HIV-positive men with severe health complications.
Now that Congress is back in session after a week-long recess, it hopefully will take action to restore the benefits as part of a broader disaster-relief package. That congressional action is needed underscores the fundamental difference — and unfairness — of how Puerto Rico is treated by the federal government. Puerto Rico receives money through a block grant that requires regular renewal and that provides smaller benefits than those that are allotted to states.
A further challenge is the seeming hostility emanating from the Oval Office. President Trump at first vowed to reject the food-stamp funding and, according to The Post’s report, has pushed for ways to limit federal support to Puerto Rico. “He doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island,” said a senior administration official quoted by The Post.
Mr. Trump’s empathy deficit is well known by now, as is the favoritism he displays toward states that tend to vote Republican. But for the government to turn its back on the more than 3 million citizens who have made Puerto Rico their home is essentially turning his bigotry into official policy. And that is a travesty.