Puerto Rico does not have equal access to federal funds, congressional representation, or constitutional protection equal to the states. A few examples:

  • Puerto Rico receives Medicaid funding, but at a much lower matching rate than states. This means the federal government covers a smaller portion of healthcare costs for low-income residents in Puerto Rico.
  • Similar to Medicaid, Puerto Rico gets a reduced allotment of SNAP benefits compared to states, limiting food assistance for low-income families.
  • Certain tax breaks and benefits available to businesses in states aren’t extended to Puerto Rico, hindering economic development.
  • Puerto Rico has a Resident Commissioner who sits in the House of Representatives but cannot vote on legislation. This means Puerto Rico’s voice isn’t directly heard when laws are being made that affect them.
  • Puerto Rico doesn’t have Senators in the U.S. Senate, further diminishing their influence in federal decision-making.
  • The U.S. Constitution doesn’t automatically apply in its entirety to Puerto Rico. This creates uncertainties regarding certain rights and protections afforded to citizens in states.

Territory status

The reason for these inequities is simple: as a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is not equal to the states. The Supreme Court has confirmed this in recent years.
Congress could solve the problem with a simple majority vote admitting Puerto Rico was a state. This has not yet happened, though we are closer now than every before. For the first time in U.S. history, there are bills to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status in both the House and the Senate.

In the meantime, some members of Congress and the president are making efforts to improve Puerto Rico’s position. The Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act of 2023 would transition Puerto Rico to a more equitable participation in the Food Stamp (SNAP) program. President Biden has reaffirmed his commitment to providing equal medical funding for the Island. The Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Credit were extended to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been specifically included in recent funding measures along with the states.

This is a positive trend. However, it is not a solution.

Not a solution

Puerto Rico was initially included in the Food Stamp program. Then Congress took away SNAP and replaced it with the much less generous NAP. Extra funding for Medicaid has been approved several times in the past — temporarily and just in time to avoid a Medicaid cliff. That funding was not continued over the long term. The Resident Commissioner has been given a symbolic vote in Congress repeatedly…and then has lost it again.

Temporary, piecemeal concessions like these make it look like Puerto Rico is a charity case, subject to the whims of Congress at a particular moment. In fact, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. It is morally wrong, and contrary to the ideals of our nation, to treat the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico differently from the U.S. citizens of Massachusetts for no reason but geography.

Statehood is the permanent solution. As a state, Puerto Rico will be on an equal footing with all the other states.

The debate continues

The question of Puerto Rico’s future and its access to equal rights continues to be a subject of debate. Understanding the current limitations Puerto Rico faces is an important step towards a more equitable future for the island and its citizens. We support even the temporary measures that help to lift the negative effects of the Island’s unequal treatment, but we also recognize that statehood is the only permanent solution to the problem.

If you live in a state and benefit from equal rights, full constitutional protection, and a voice in American democracy, please let your legislators know that you want to see the same outcome for Puerto Rico.



No responses yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for our newsletter!

We will send you news about Puerto Rico and the path to statehood. No spam, just useful information about this historic movement.