Among the most dire effects of the government shutdown so far is the potential that benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could run out in March or April, leaving many Kentuckians – including 266,000 children and 61,000 seniors – struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet.
To get families through next month, based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services Agency (FNS), the state has decided to issue an average of approximately $250 per household in Kentuckians’ accounts on January 20 for the month of February. If Congress does not re-open at least the USDA by March or April, 579,000 Kentuckians from 262,000 households will lose their food assistance.
This early issuance is problematic for SNAP participants, as SNAP benefits are often spent within the first few days of participants having received them. With benefits being deposited into EBT accounts at a minimum of 11 days early, some beneficiaries could find themselves in a difficult situation at the end of the month. Accordingly, FNS shared the following notice to retailers that accept SNAP:
February SNAP Was Delivered Early! Customers who use SNAP EBT should keep in mind that February food dollars will be added in the middle of January this year. This means that you may have two months’ worth of food dollars on your account this month. No food dollars will be added in February. The early food dollars are meant to help with next month’s food. We encourage our SNAP-participating customers to plan their purchases carefully so that they have money available to meet their food needs.
Other anti-hunger programs face similar problems. In a press release from the USDA about the shutdown, several programs have just enough funding to continue to the end of February, including the following:
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC),
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program,
- Emergency Food Assistance Program,
- Food Distribution Program on Indian reservations.
The WIC Farmers’ Market and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs are funded for the federal fiscal year which is through the end of September and the various Child Nutrition Programs (like school meals) will be funded for the quarter, which is through the end of March.
Congress should act to pass legislation re-opening the government to keep food on Kentucky tables, and President Trump should sign it. A lapse in funding of this kind is unprecedented and the harm caused to individual Kentuckians and local economies will be severe if action isn’t taken soon.