The United States Department of Justice anticipated that the discussion on the unconstitutionality of the exclusion of Puerto Rico in those programs will be heard by the federal Supreme Court. (Patrick Semansky)
The United States government tries to avoid paying Puerto Rico at least $ 1.27 billion from three programs in one year, until its appeals are resolved.
In a motion submitted to the Federal Court in San Juan, the United States Department of Justice asked Judge William Young to stop the entry into force of a decision he issued, ordering access to these federal assistance programs, until it is addressed. your appeal.
The three programs are Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), and Medicare Part D subsidies.
The federal government's motion indicates that if the order is not stopped, in the first year the Social Security Administration (SSA) would have to pay at least $ 254.4 million in operational costs.
Meanwhile, the federal Department of Health (HHS) would have to disburse $ 559 million only in Medicare payments “that were not authorized by Congress.” He also noted that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would have to pay over $ 457 million in programmatic costs.
“These enormous losses will then be incurred while the appeal of the defendants is pending,” indicates the motion of federal Justice.
“And because no allocation subsidizes the costs in question for the SSA or the USDA, and Congress has not authorized an LIS (Medicare subsidy) benefit for residents of Puerto Rico, the agencies will only be able to pay by diverting significant levels of resources from the agencies, “he added.
Young – a Massachusetts judge assigned to this case in federal court in San Juan – ruled last August that it is unconstitutional to deny those programs to eligible residents of Puerto Rico for violating the right to equal protection of the laws and ordered that they be provide access to those benefits.
His order arose from a lawsuit submitted on behalf of citizens Sixta Gladys Peña Martínez, Nélida Santiago Álvarez, María Luisa Aguilar Galindez, Gamaly Vélez Santiago, Victor Ramón Ilarraza Acevedo, Maritza Rosado Concepción, Rosa Maria Ilarraza Rosa, Ramón Luis Rivera Rivera and Yomara Valderrama.
The United States government appealed its decision to the First Circuit of Appeals in Boston on September 11.
In the motion submitted this Friday in the federal court of San Juan, federal Justice asked Judge Young to stop all the processes in this case until the appeal is resolved, highlighting that one of the reasons is that they supposedly meet the requirement of having sufficient probabilities to prevail on appeal.
Federal justice argues that the appeal could be successful because Young's decision is based on an opinion issued by the same Boston Circuit of Appeals in another case that contradicts precedents of the United States Supreme Court.
That other case is that of Luis Vaello Madero, resolved by federal judge Gustavo Gelpí on February 5, 2019. Gelpí declared unconstitutional the federal government's claim to a resident of the Island to return the money he had received from SSI.
Last April, Boston upheld the decision stating that the exclusion violated the equal protection of the laws and that there was no rational basis for the exclusion of the island's residents.
Following that resolution, US President Donald Trump's attorney general this month asked the Supreme Court to accept the case to review the decision in the Vaello Madero case.
In the motion submitted to Young on Friday, the United States government anticipated that the Federal Supreme Court will accept the case because it is a decision of an appellate forum that declared a long-standing law of Congress unconstitutional.
It also stated that the United States government “could prevail in that case because the appellate court's opinion runs directly contrary to a binding precedent of the (federal) Supreme Court.”
The Public Ministry also argued that the stoppage will not cause “irreparable damage” to the plaintiffs, while it responds to the “best public interest.”
Instead, the plaintiffs allege that the stoppage would cause “irreparable harm.”
When asking Young to deny the petition for freezing, the plaintiffs noted that the same judge recognized in his order that “the plaintiffs, along with all the applicants who have been denied benefits for having their residence in Puerto Rico, have undoubtedly suffered irreparable damage by virtue of losing SSI, SNAP and LIS benefits “because” those benefits are necessary to 'maintain life.'
“Irreparable damage requires denying the requested stoppage,” he said.