People and families who depend on food stamps to avoid going hungry are about to take a one-two punch that could be catastrophic not only for them, but for the private and religious groups who take it upon themselves to feed those who can’t afford to eat.
The federal government shutdown will affect funding for food stamps nationwide if congress can't get its act together and reopen the government. But the shutdown hits at an especially difficult time because funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was already scheduled to take a hit at the beginning of November.
That’s because funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal “stimulus” program, was already schedule to run out Nov. 1. How this affects people on the SNAP program varies from state to state. The federal government, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides the SNAP money, but it is up to states to administer the programs.
In Arkansas, for example, which stands to lose $52 million in funding, a family of three will lose about $30 per month in benefits.
In Minnesota, where benefits will be cut by about $11 per person on the program, individual food stamp recipients must participate in a employment placement and training programs, as long as they are deemed “able bodied.” While it may make sense to ask food stamp recipients to work or train for work, the problem is that as long as the federal government shutdown continues, the job placement and training programs are also shut down.
So food stamp recipients get hit by the shutdown and by the scheduled wind-down of the stimulus program.
Utah officials say that the state’s food stamp programs will come to a screeching halt on Nov. 1 if the federal government does not reopen it doors and 100,000 household would face going without food. Utah closed its WIC program —that part of SNAP that provides assistance specifically for women, infants and children — when the shutdown began but got it going again with federal grant money.
However, the program will close again and leave its 66,000 beneficiaries high and dry if the shutdown does not end by Nov. 1
In that case, private food kitchens, charities and religious groups would need to take on the full responsibility for feeding people in need, and those groups are already stretched thin.
"To put 66,000 individuals [now on WIC] out there to churches and food banks is a huge blow," said Utah Democratic State Senator Sen. Pat Jones.
SOURCES: Salt Lake Tribune, The City Wire, Sherburne County Citizen