Anti-hunger groups fear the shutdown could mean loss of SNAP, WIC benefits
As President Donald Trump plans a speech to the nation tonight and a trip to the U.S.-Mexican border on Thursday to defend his demand that Congress fund a border wall with Mexico, the Food Research & Action Center and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities issued lengthy statements Monday about the threat that federal nutrition programs will run out of money.
“It is unconscionable to hold hostage programs like SNAP, WIC, and school meals that are essential to the nutrition, health, development, learning, and well-being of tens of millions of Americans,” FRAC President James Weill said, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Richard Russell National School Lunch Act.
“The Trump administration has been less than forthcoming about how long these critical safety net benefits can and will be provided, but the specter of cut-offs starting in February is causing increasing fear and confusion,” Weill said in reference to reports that the Agriculture Department has been unwilling to comment on how long funds for SNAP will last.
Weill added that if benefits are reduced or terminated “decades of progress in the fight against hunger will unravel and millions of Americans will face desperate levels of hunger. That alone is absolutely unacceptable.
“But the consequences go beyond hunger. People’s health will worsen, hospital and health care costs will rise, students’ learning will suffer, food retailers will lose business, local economies will weaken, and huge numbers of jobs will be lost.”
While Trump has said there is an emergency at the border, Weill said, “The true looming national emergency is America failing to meet the nutritional needs of 38 million SNAP beneficiaries, 22 million free and reduced-price school meal recipients, 7 million WIC recipients, and millions of other beneficiaries of USDA food programs when these federal programs start running out of money should the shutdown go on for the ‘months’, much less ‘years,’ the president has said he is willing to tolerate.”
Meanwhile, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities issued a statement on the technicalities facing USDA because SNAP is considered an entitlement, but is funded through annual appropriations.
“If the partial government shutdown that began in late December continues into February, there may not be sufficient appropriations for food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to provide full benefits for that month,” Dottie Rosenbaum of CBPP wrote in the analysis.
“And if the shutdown continues into March, little or no benefits likely will be paid in that month. As a result, millions of low-income households — including millions of poor children, parents, elderly people, and people with disabilities — could have their basic food assistance cut back substantially in February and then virtually eliminated altogether starting in March if the shutdown continues.”
–The Hagstrom Report