Puerto Rico Gets Food Stamp Waiver

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Trump administration officials have allowed Puerto Rico to have a waiver on food stamp regulations, permitting recipients of the benefit on the island to purchase fast food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to allow the Nutritional Assistance Program to be used to purchase hot food comes in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which has left 95 percent of Puerto Rico without power more than a week after it struck, according to The Hill.

Normally, NAP benefits can only be used to purchase food in grocery stores to be prepared at home.

"We understand that at this point in time all food retail outlets in Puerto Rico are challenged by a lack of inventory, power and connectivity issues," the USDA said in a letter, according to The Hill. "Additionally, ATMs are experiencing connectivity issues and limits on cash."

The USDA refused a request to increase the amount of NAP made available to recipients in cash from 20 percent to 50 percent. Instead, the department agreed to postpone by two months a regulation that would have reduced the amount of NAP paid out in cash to 15 percent after Oct. 1.

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"While we are able to provide some flexibility for NAP in a disaster response, there is a need to maintain the overall intent of the NAP as defined in the authorizing legislation," the letter added.

Earlier in the day, The New York Times reported that Puerto Rico had not received the waiver.

The decision to grant the waiver was reported as President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico. Trump told local officials they should be "very proud" of their response to the storm.

"Every death is a horror," explained Trump, according to CNN, "but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous -- hundreds and hundreds of people that died -- and you look at what happened here with, really, a storm that was just totally overpowering ... no one has ever seen anything like this."

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Trump then asked Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to confirm the official death toll.

"Sixteen people certified," Trump added. "Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people and all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody watching can really be very proud of what's taken place in Puerto Rico."

But Rossello stated prior to Trump's arrival that the true number of dead remains unknown.

"I've established from the get-go that due to the magnitude of this event it is likely that that number is going to go up," Rossello said.

Sources: The Hill, CNN / Featured Image: Alexon20/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons, Speijen/Wikimedia Commons

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