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Government Shutdown

UPDATE (1/17/2019):

All SNAP benefits issued are avaialbe and remain on Access Cards for 1 full year. There is no need to use any Feb benefits that were issued early before January ends. We are still unsue of what will happen to March benefits. Please stay tuned.

Update (1/16/2019):

Due to the federal government shutdown, Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services (DHS) is issuing February's SNAP benefits early as directed by USDA. Benefits SNAP participants would normally get in February will instead be issued TODAY, January 16th. This is not a bonus - it is SNAP benefits for the month of February! Participants will not get more SNAP benefits until March at the earliest. Click HERE to download a flyer to share with friends and clients. 

UPDATE (1/11/2019):

USDA has directed states to issue February SNAP benefits early – by January 20th. Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is doing everything it can to get SNAP households their February SNAP with as little confusion as possible and will share information with us once its plans are finalized. Most importantly, we all need to make sure SNAP participants understand the upcoming issuance of benefits is their February SNAP arriving early. We do not yet know what will happen with March benefits if the shutdown continues. The shutdown has no impact on SNAP eligibility rules, the ability of retailers to accept SNAP, or on DHS's issuance of cash assistance benefits (TANF and GA) and those newly in need of SNAP (such as some furloughed workers) should apply as soon as possible. For more detailed information, check out our blog post here

UPDATE (1/09/2019):  

Late Tuesday evening (1/08/19), USDA released a statement on their intention to implement a plan to fund SNAP through February.  For more information, please see this Washington Post article.

FEDERAL NUTRITION PROGRAMS DURING THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

The Coalition Against Hunger is very concerned about the impact of the government shutdown on families and individuals who rely on vital federal nutrition programs.  We are equally concerned for the hundreds of thousands of furloughed government workers now struggling to put food on their tables.

We have compiled the information that we know to date about the shutdown's impact on those programs. We will update this site as additional information becomes available.

 

SNAP (Food Stamps)

Our national partners have confirmed that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently has financial resources to cover just 60% of February SNAP benefits.

All of us –USDA, states, clients, advocates and retailers - are now in uncharted waters. While previous government shut-downs raised concerns about funding SNAP, The USDA has not had to deal with issuing benefits without sufficient funds. Previous shutdowns have ended before it got to that point. 

USDA has indicated that this week it will issue guidance to states, as well as to stores accepting SNAP benefits, about its plans for issuing February benefits.

An additional complication concerns retailers that accept SNAP benefits. Stores must be re-authorized every 5 years. There are about 2,500 retailers across the county who are up for re-authorization but had not yet submitted paperwork at the time of the shutdown. USDA staff who would normally process those re-authorizations have been furloughed. The result is that stores awaiting re-authorization will be unable to accept SNAP benefits until the government reopens. We do not know how many Pennsylvania stores are impacted.

WIC (Women, Infants and Children)

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported that WIC has funding through January. It is closely monitoring funds and cannot yet say what will happen beyond January.

SCHOOL MEALS

The state’s Department of Education (PDE) is monitoring its funding closely. By the end of January schools must submit invoices for meals served in November.  The Department expects to have the funds available to pay them in full.

PDE typically receives its funds in quarterly installments, and the Department's understanding is that while funds are available at the federal level for the first quarter, the shutdown may interfere with processing those funds down to the state level. PDE is awaiting more information from USDA.

EMERGENCY FOOD

During a shutdown, TEFAP and CSFP would receive no new funds, including administrative funds. Existing inventories can still be used, and funding is typically restored retroactively.

TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) TEFAP is a Federal program that provides food and administrative funds to States to supplement the diets of low-income Americans, including seniors.

For orders placed before the shutdown began, food banks can expect the food to be delivered as scheduled. Area food banks have already placed TEFAP orders through March 31, 2019. However, they might begin to see a delay since USDA cannot place the orders until the government reopens. Unfortunately, food banks will NOT receive federal funds to offset the cost to store and distribute TEFAP foods during the shutdown. 

CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) CSFP, often called “senior boxes” is a federal nutrition program providing monthly food assistance specially targeted at low-income seniors. 

USDA has already purchased CSFP food for the second quarter of the fiscal year [January-March, 2019]. Along with the inventory currently at food banks, this program may have the capacity to run a bit longer.

RESOURCES

The Washington Post ran a definitive story on the impact of the shutdown: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as white house scrambles to deal with shutdown

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a short, comprehensive report explaining the current situation: Millions Face Cut in SNAP Food Assistance if Government Shutdown Continues

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a strong statement calling on the President and Congress to open the government and stop the threat to the federal programs: Government Shutdown Threatens National Emergency for Millions of Hungry Households

CALL TO ACTION

The House is expected to vote on January 9, 2019 on four individual appropriations bills to fund the Agriculture Department, Treasury Department, Interior Department, and other noncontroversial agencies. These appropriations bills are the same ones that were passed by the House as part of a large package to reopen the government, and they are identical to the appropriations bills that the Senate passed at the end of last year.  

Resolving the government shutdown will likely come down to whether enough Senate Republicans tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House that they support reopening the government.

Please call Senators Toomey (202-224-4254) and Casey (202-224-6324) and urge them to support the same appropriations bills that the Senate supported last year, pointing to the impacts of the shutdown on SNAP and other programs as a reason why Congress must act now.