Pa. Senate passes bill with Cruz language to address 'Air Bridge' issue

HARRISBURG, June 21 – The state Senate today passed a bill (S.B. 446) that includes language identical to an amendment by Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., designed to address the "Air Bridge" issue.

"Both the House and Senate have now passed bills containing my language to address the Air Bridge problem. Now we just need to have one bill pass both the House and Senate. After these two votes, I am optimistic we can get this reform to the governor's desk and signed into law," Cruz said.

On June 7, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.B. 119) that includes Cruz's amendment.

Cruz’s proposal 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 people 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.