The government shutdown is rearing its ugly head once again. This time it’s affecting the nearly 39 million people who rely on food assistance programs to feed themselves and their families.
Each month the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) issues money to households that qualify for their food funding services, but for February the deposits came two weeks early with no guarantee of when next month’s will be available.
The reasoning behind that is the federal food and nutrition service programs did get enough money to handle the benefits for February, but further funding past next month is not a guarantee. According to a USDA press release, when the government shut down on December 21, only the SNAP benefits for the month of January were fully backed. Through a technicality, the period of support was extended for 30 days. The USDA worked with states to ensure that within those 30 days, beneficiaries received their deposits for next month and before the program ran out of money.
At the time of the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well.”
That plan, however, had a shelf life of 30 days and does not cover benefits for March.
Food pantries across the country are hoping to provide relief to those who are anxious about what the lack of funds will mean for their families. Many have already reported a huge spike in households seeking their services. Several have chipped in to help government employees who have been furloughed during the government shutdown. More are expected to rely on their assistance if and when the shutdown drags on.