New ILE estimate indicates that approximately 266,000 people who are currently outside the working group in Puerto Rico would qualify for work under SNAP.
Jorge L. Rodríguez, founder and president of the Institute for Economic Liberty (ILE by its name in Spanish), traveled to Washington, D.C. to present an update of the report From NAP to SNAP: A Bridge to Economic Liberty for Residents of Puerto Rico, published by ILE last year. The update was proposed by U.S. Congress officials during a previous ILE visit to the federal capital, in July of this year.
The report presents the characteristics and operation of the federal government’s block grant currently received by the Island, for nutrition assistance, and compares and contrasts its limitations with the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The update is based on the new age parameters of the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents, from 18-49―as it was previously―to 18-54.
The new ILE estimate found that the potential number of people who could participate in the labor force in Puerto Rico, under the current SNAP work requirement parameters, is approximately 266,000―20,000 more people than in the previous estimate. This represents 22.9% of the number of individuals who were part of the civilian labor force in June 2023 and 27.6% of the number of individuals in this group between the ages of 18 and 54.
Rodríguez had 21 meetings in both legislative bodies, one of them in the office of Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture and recently visited Puerto Rico. He also met with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón and Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Luis D. Dávila, who thanked ILE for its work and presence in Congress.
“Everyone I met with was very surprised to see that, after more than 40 years of the Nutritional Assistance Program [NAP] in Puerto Rico, poverty levels and the labor participation rate on the Island have remained practically unchanged. This shows that NAP has been a ‘poverty trap’ by not assisting in putting able-bodied adults to work in order to achieve economic freedom and escape from dependency,” Rodríguez said.
As Dr. Ángel Carrión-Tavárez, author of the report, explains, “the poverty trap occurs when a program’s benefit phase-out system does not incentivize participants to work. If working represents little (or no) increase in disposable income as a result of the combined effects of benefit withdrawal, the adjustments and expenses of working, and higher tax burden on in-work earnings, those receiving relatively satisfactory benefits face the dilemma of accepting a job or not.”
Rodríguez added that “there are $84 billion in federal funds for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico and over 2,000 infrastructure projects, and these have not made much progress because there is a great shortage of labor. Many of the 266,000 current NAP participants who are not working could be encouraged to participate in the rebuilding of the Island via SNAP, without being penalized for doing so.”
For the ILE president, it was significant to hear, on multiple occasions, that this was the first time that visitors from Puerto Rico spoke to congressmen and their advisors from a perspective of economic freedom and overcoming dependency. “In fact, in countless meetings, the common reaction to the presentation of our report was ‘what we are hearing is very refreshing coming from Puerto Rico,’” he recalled.
“For me, as the founder of ILE, what I experienced in this visit to Congress has always been my vision: That studies, data, and critical analysis be the basis and arguments for the formulation of an intelligent and liberating public policy that helps the people of Puerto Rico achieve their maximum potential. That is why it was gratifying that those who establish public policy in the federal government validated and appreciated our work,” concluded Rodríguez.
About the Puerto Rico Institute for Economic Liberty
The Institute for Economic Liberty (ILE) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization created with the genuine desire to ensure that everyone on the Island has equal opportunities to unleash their maximum potential and create their own success. We believe that effort and merit should be rewarded and prosperity should be driven by people’s creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. We want to live in a Puerto Rico where everyone can be empowered to achieve their goals and progress in a free and open society. You can learn more about ILE at institutodelibertadeconomica.org, as well as on Facebook and Instagram @ilepuertorico.