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Originally published June 7 2013

One-third of population of Puerto Rico now getting federal food stamps

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) According to new data, the U.S. taxpayer is forking out more than $2 billion a year to provide food stamps to citizens of Puerto Rico last year, and what's worse, as much as 25 percent of the aid is untraceable because it is distributed in cash and there's "no way to verify that funds are spent on food," the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

The money is used to provide more than one-third of the Puerto Rican population with food stamps, the USDA says, mostly through the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP). A portion of the total includes money for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or what is more popularly known as the 2009 "economic stimulus" package, which cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and in which $165 million went to fund food stamps for the Caribbean nation.

High unemployment, low standard of living


The $165 million in stimulus funding is on top of $494.3 million in food stamp grants to Puerto Rico from the ARRA in FY 2009 and 2010. Stimulus spending will continue towards the program this year, with an estimated $101.3 million in FY 2013.

Just what American taxpayers need - another federally mandated charity case. But I digress.

The website reported that a spokesman from USDA's Food and Nutrition Service said on average 1.37 million people a month received food stamps in Puerto Rico during FY 2012. The country has a population of 3.7 million, which translates into 37 percent of the population receiving some sort of food assistance from the government.

The rest of the economic picture for the country isn't much better; Puerto Rico's unemployment rate is nearly double that of the United States' average of 7.7 percent. And the median household income is a paltry $19,122 annually.

The numbers in the U.S. are only marginally better. There are currently about 48 million people receiving food stamps, or 15.2 percent of a total population of 313.9 million. That is about half of Puerto Rico's rate, but a record one-in-five U.S. households is receiving food assistance benefits.

There is fraud, waste and abuse in the U.S., mind you, but the Puerto Rican situation seems ripe for it, reports CNSNews:

Instead of operating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Puerto Rico administers block grants, among which 25 percent of a person's benefit can be paid in cash, which means there is no way of tracking how the money is spent. (The average monthly benefit in FY 2009 was $240, meaning a recipient could receive up to $60 in cash, according to a 2010 feasibility report.)

In 2010 a USDA report regarding the feasibility of implementing SNAP in Puerto Rico concluded, in part, that it's "widely acknowledged" that food assistance recipients in the country use the cash payments for things other than food.

And yet, the government just keeps doling it out. No wonder we're broke.

"Like SNAP, NAP distributes benefits on an EBT debit card," said the report, according to CNSNews. "However, unlike SNAP, up to 25 percent of the monthly benefit may be redeemed for cash."

Continuing, the report said, "Although the cash is designated for eligible food items, it is widely acknowledged that participants use at least some of their allotted cash for non-food essentials, such as medicine and hygiene products."

And who knows what else.

'No way to know'

The news website said a spokesman for the agency concurred there was no way to know what all the money is spent on.

"When cash is withdrawn from an ATM, there is no way to verify that funds are spent on food, however, the 25 percent provided in cash is designated for food purchases," the USDA said. "One of the main reasons that provisions of 25 percent of the benefits in cash was built into the program was to allow participants without access to certified retailers a way to purchase food."

We're losing our future, one fraudulent, wasteful program at a time.

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