Bill with Cruz amendment to address 'Air Bridge' issue passes House

HARRISBURG, June 7 – The state House of Representatives today passed a bill (H.B. 119) that includes an amendment by Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., designed to address the Air Bridge issue.

Cruz’ amendment would ban the owners, administrators and employees of recovery houses from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits. It would also ensure that all drug and alcohol recovery houses throughout Pennsylvania not in compliance with federal, state or local law be referred to the appropriate agency for further investigation.

"My amendment is important in making sure that the Air Bridge issue is resolved," Cruz said. "Families sent their relatives from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia to get treatment for drug addiction, but quality treatment options were not provided. Instead, they were prisoners of unregulated recovery homes that stole their money, food stamps and other government assistance in return for their stay. This is a big step to resolving the issue, but we can do more."

Air Bridge is a network that promised Puerto Rican drug addicts treatment in lavish recovery houses in cities like Philadelphia. However, once individuals arrive to receive treatment, they are taken to live in rundown homes, share beds with several other people, and are forced to relinquish their food stamps and other public assistance benefits.

In April, Cruz chaired a hearing in Philadelphia to discuss and find a solution to the Air Bridge pipeline.

Cruz also commended amendments added to the bill by state Reps. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., and Tina Davis, D-Bucks.

"I would like to thank my colleagues, in particular Representatives Dawkins and Davis for their amendments to the bill," Cruz said. "Both of their amendments would make sure that recovery houses are further regulated and in compliance with federal, state and local laws. This would allow us to tackle the opioid epidemic and ensure that innocent human beings are not taken advantage of."

The bill now goes to the state Senate.