Millions could lose food assistance if shutdown drags on

Millions of low-income Americans could have a harder time affording food if the partial government shutdown ...

Posted: Jan 8, 2019 9:05 AM
Updated: Jan 8, 2019 9:06 AM

Millions of low-income Americans could have a harder time affording food if the partial government shutdown continues into February.

Funding for food stamps, school lunches and nutrition for pregnant women and young children is expected to run out next month if the impasse isn't resolved, experts say.

Food and drink

Charities and charitable giving

Food assistance

Food charities

Food stamps

Social assistance and welfare

Society

Employment and income status

Labor and employment

Low income persons

Social and economic status

Agriculture departments

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Diet and nutrition

Diet, nutrition and fitness

Health and medical

Nutrition

Education

Education regulation and policy

School meal programs

The largest benefit at risk is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the formal name for food stamps. Nearly 38.6 million Americans depended on this aid to augment their grocery budgets in September, according to the US Department of Agriculture's latest data.

The agency said last month that the program is funded through January, but it has only $3 billion in reserves to cover February. That's less than two-thirds of food stamps' $4.8 billion cost in September.

What the agency would do next is unknown.

If the $3 billion reserve were distributed evenly, that would translate into a roughly $90 cut for the 19.4 million households that receive an average of $245 a month, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"That would put a huge hole in the budget every month for families that have very low incomes and would likely result in severe hardship and hunger," said Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the center.

A program that provides food assistance to more than 7 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers and young children is similarly threatened. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children also has federal funding to last only through January, according to the National WIC Association, an advocacy organization. The average cost of a monthly WIC food package is just under $41 per person.

Last week, the agency's Food & Nutrition Service division said it intends to allocate all remaining carryover and unspent funds to state agencies, according to the Rev. Douglas Greenaway, the association's president. Federal officials are working with state agencies to see what other unspent money might be available for reallocation. How much is available and how long the program can continue operating will vary by state, but these actions together would push the cutoff date into February.

"It becomes a make-or-break moment likely in mid-February," Greenaway said.

At that point, it's possible states might not sign up new clients or might stop providing benefits to women who recently gave birth or older children, Greenaway said. They might also provide only one month of benefits, instead of the typical three months.

Child nutrition programs, including school breakfasts and lunches and after-school meals, will continue into February, according to the USDA.

While states partner with the federal government on many food assistance programs, they do not have the funds to cover the federal portion during the shutdown, said James Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center.

The USDA did not respond to requests for comment.

If federal nutrition aid does run dry next month, it will put a big strain on the nation's food banks, which provide groceries to tens of millions of Americans through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, donations from the food industry and charitable contributions.

The USDA paid for its shipments through March before the shutdown took effect, said Carrie Calvert, managing director of government relations at Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. However, the federal agency is no longer reimbursing states for storing and distributing the products, which costs $5.3 million a month.

So far, no problems have been reported. But Calvert is concerned that the funds will dry up if the shutdown is prolonged.

Another issue: If low-income Americans stop receiving their food stamps and other benefits, more will turn to food banks for help -- many of which don't have the resources to handle the additional crush of people.

The Capital Area Food Bank, which annually serves half a million people in the Washington metro area through 450 pantries, is already planning to boost its stocks since it expects to see more clients soon -- both federal workers and contractors who are losing their paychecks and low-income residents who are losing their government aid. It's already getting queries from the food pantries and soup kitchens it serves about whether they can get more supplies.

The shutdown comes at a bad time because the food bank typically has less inventory in January and February, since it receives fewer donations after the holiday season ends. The nonprofit agency is talking to grocery and corporate partners to see if they can hold food drives in coming weeks.

"We just need to be able to provide more," said Radha Muthiah, the food bank's CEO.

Lafayette
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 40°
Kokomo
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 29°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 34°
Lafayette
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 40°
Danville
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 34°
Frankfort
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 33°
Frankfort
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 33°
Monticello
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 36°
Monticello
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 36°
Logansport
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 34°
Warmest weather since December is ahead with good timing with the weekend rainfall...
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

WLFI is promoting fire safety with FREE smoke detectors

 WLFI and several local fire departments are helping with your fire safety this winter. CLICK HERE. 

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 659127

Reported Deaths: 12494
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion903271628
Lake48239872
Allen35663632
Hamilton31929395
St. Joseph29721510
Elkhart25306412
Vanderburgh21173377
Tippecanoe19873199
Johnson16290355
Porter15896268
Hendricks15765300
Clark11885179
Madison11704315
Vigo11538229
Monroe10285159
Delaware9815178
LaPorte9732195
Howard9030195
Kosciusko8529108
Bartholomew7412147
Hancock7392128
Warrick7389147
Floyd7172165
Wayne6616189
Grant6411157
Morgan6054124
Boone605388
Dubois5885111
Dearborn542366
Henry540792
Marshall5406104
Cass539699
Noble508176
Jackson463664
Shelby459390
Lawrence4165111
Gibson401081
Harrison397061
Clinton393753
Montgomery384283
DeKalb384078
Knox355784
Miami355663
Whitley347835
Huntington341276
Steuben337155
Wabash329776
Putnam327359
Ripley325661
Adams321549
Jasper314243
White296151
Jefferson293370
Daviess284696
Fayette270856
Decatur269788
Greene260679
Posey260131
Wells256574
Scott249649
LaGrange240570
Clay239744
Randolph225276
Spencer216630
Jennings214144
Washington209327
Sullivan202639
Fountain200942
Starke186950
Owen181853
Fulton177737
Jay177328
Carroll176118
Perry173035
Orange170750
Rush164322
Vermillion159541
Franklin158835
Tipton145841
Parke138415
Pike127432
Blackford120327
Pulaski106444
Newton96431
Brown94839
Benton91613
Crawford90413
Martin80014
Switzerland7527
Warren75212
Union66910
Ohio52911
Unassigned0429

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events