As provided by Section 776 of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116–94), the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) contracted with Insight to update our 2010 report, Implementing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico: A Feasibility Study. Insight also developed a detailed implementation plan with specific steps and estimated timelines and costs for converting Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In fiscal year 2021, NAP aided more than 1.5 million individuals with low incomes in Puerto Rico. The federal block grant covers all food benefits and 50 percent of administrative costs; Puerto Rico covers the remaining administrative expenses. While the NAP block grant provides important nutritional benefits, those benefits are extended to fewer people, and benefits are lower than they would be with SNAP. Because NAP is a capped block grant, it cannot automatically expand when the economy contracts or in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
To update the feasibility report and develop the implementation plan, Insight conducted extensive document review of NAP and SNAP legislation, regulations, operations, and budget. We also conducted key informant interviews with stakeholders in FNS’s National Office, the Mid-Atlantic Region Office, the Caribbean Area Office, and Puerto Rico. We examined barriers and facilitators to SNAP implementation across nine domains: (1) legislation and regulation; (2) eligibility determination and benefit issuance; (3) program integrity; (4) retailer authorization and management; (5) work requirements and SNAP Employment & Training; (6) disaster response; (7) SNAP Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention; (8) additional SNAP administrative functions (i.e., SNAP Outreach and participant communications, fair hearings, civil rights, and financial management and reporting); and (9) data systems. The data were used to—
- Identify changes needed to legislation, regulation, and policy to facilitate transition to SNAP.
- Identify programmatic changes needed at the federal level and in Puerto Rico.
- Determine the infrastructural and organizational needs. For example, SNAP retailer authorization and monitoring would require an estimated 10–11 additional staff at FNS, and SNAP eligibility determination would require an estimated 550 additional eligibility workers in Puerto Rico.
- Develop a detailed plan and timeline for implementing SNAP in Puerto Rico. While the actual timeline could vary, the study team estimated a 10-year process.
- Estimate the costs of SNAP implementation. Developing the needed data systems and completing all the steps would require an estimated $341–$426 million over the 10-year implementation period.
The study team developed a microsimulation model to produce the annual administrative cost estimate of $115–$192 million for Puerto Rico and $134–$221 million for the federal government. SNAP benefits would cost an estimated $4.5 billion annually.
Final report, implementation plan