Chair Grijalva Slams SCOTUS Decision to Exclude Residents of Puerto Rico from SSI Benefits
Washington, D.C. – Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement on today’s ruling from Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the exclusion of residents of Puerto Rico from receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits issued by the Social Security Administration:
“Denying SSI benefits for the hundreds of thousands of Americans living in Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories is unjust to its core,” Chair Grijalva said. “Today’s decision upholds more than a century of discriminatory policies that treat our fellow Americans living in the U.S. Territories like second-class citizens. I’m equally disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to defend this discrimination in court. House Democrats have taken a stand against these inequities and passed legislation to extend SSI benefits and expand other federal programs to the territories—I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.”
SSI benefits are granted to persons with financial need who are elderly, blind, or have a disability. Although these benefits are available to residents of all 50 states, D.C., and the Northern Mariana Islands, otherwise-eligible residents of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are excluded. With this decision, nearly 300,000 people in Puerto Rico who are otherwise eligible for SSI benefits will not receive them.
In his written opinion for the 8-1 majority, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed to the fact that most residents in Puerto Rico are not required to pay federal income tax. However, residents of the territories contribute billions of dollars in other federal taxes, including payroll taxes, business taxes, and estate taxes. In Puerto Rico alone, residents pay more than $4 billion annually to the federal government, which is more than taxpayers in six states.
The House-passed Build Back Better Act would resolve this issue by extending SSI to residents in all U.S. Territories, as well as expanding access to other federal programs like Medicaid.
Natural Resources Committee Democrats are committed to advancing justice for residents of the territories who have been subjected to discriminatory federal policy, namely the racist doctrine established by the Insular Cases, for more than a century. Last year, the Committee held two hearings about how the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan and President Biden’s FY22 budget request could benefit the territories, including measures for economic growth, infrastructure development, and parity for federal programs. Chair Grijalva also introduced a resolution to reject the Insular Cases and sent a letter with several other members of Congress to the U.S. Department of Justice urging them to withdraw themselves from the case that was decided today.
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