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Bill To Extend US Social Security To Puerto Rico

by Leroy Baker,, New York

30 January 2012

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, has introduced proposed legislation into the United States Congress that looks to extend the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programme to Puerto Rico, as well as to Guam, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

The SSI programme helps the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the US, providing monthly cash assistance to blind, disabled or elderly individuals who have limited or no income. Although SSI applies in all 50 US states, it has never applied in Puerto Rico since it was established in the early 1970s.

Instead, the federal grant programme known as Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD), which preceded the SSI programme, continues to apply on the Island. The US Social Security Administration sends monthly SSI payments directly to recipients, while the AABD programme is administered by the Puerto Rican government with a limited block grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, under the AABD programme, the Puerto Rican government must make a 25% “matching” payment in order to receive its federal block grant. Under SSI, by contrast, eligible beneficiaries in the US states receive payments directly from the federal government, and there is no state matching requirement.

Prior to introducing the proposed legislation, the Supplemental Security Income Equality Act, Pierluisi spoke on the floor of the US House of Representatives about the bill, stating that, “of all the disparities that Puerto Rico faces because of its territory status, perhaps none is as unprincipled or harmful as its exclusion from SSI”.

“Puerto Rico’s annual block grant is about USD35m. By contrast, the US’s poorest state, with almost one million fewer residents, received over USD740m in SSI funding in 2010, roughly 21 times more than Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi added.

He explained that SSI beneficiaries in the US states receive between USD400 and USD600 per month, while AABD beneficiaries in Puerto Rico receive an average of just USD70 a month.

“Residents of Puerto Rico are American citizens. But, when it comes to SSI, their citizenship is second class. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support this bill,” said Pierluisi during his speech to the House of Representatives.

TAGS: individuals | tax | law | Samoa | Virgin Islands | legislation | social security | Puerto Rico | United States | Guam

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