U.S. Supreme Court Denies Federal Benefits to Puerto Rico

Thursday’s decision rests on definitions of state vs. territory.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the United States is not legally obligated to include Puerto Rico in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. “The Territory Clause of the United States Constitution… affords Congress broad authority to legislate with respect to the U.S. Territories,” wrote the court in their opinion. “In exercising that authority, Congress has long maintained different federal tax and benefits programs for residents of the Territories than for residents of the 50 States.”

The United States v. Vaello Madero decision was made in a vote of 8-1, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor being the sole dissenter. This ruling overturned a lower court decision made in 1974 which would provide SSI benefits to 300,000 people in Puerto Rico. The federal government estimated that providing SSI to Puerto Rico would cost $2 billion.

As the Lord Leads, Pray with Us…

  • For discernment for the justices of the Supreme Court as they interpret the Constitution and other federal laws.
  • For leaders of the territory of Puerto Rico as they seek to provide for their residents who need assistance.
  • For senators and representatives as they deliberate legislation pertaining to U.S. territories.

Sources: The Hill, Reuters


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