Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Does the Government Shutdown Impact Hunger Relief Programs?

We are now in the second week of the government shutdown and impacts are being felt across the country. While we are hoping for a speedy resolution, Good Shepherd Food Bank and hunger relief organizations throughout Maine are bracing for continued gridlock and deeper impacts on our work.

The shutdown is currently affecting anti-hunger programs in the following ways:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, will continue as usual through October. SNAP does not have statutory authority to continue distributing benefits after October, but there are some contingency funds that could be used, if the shutdown continues.

Retailers should and will continue to accept SNAP benefits. The USDA does have resources on hand to process those benefit transactions. People can also still sign up for SNAP benefits during the shutdown. SNAP applications are processed here in Maine, so eligible clients can visit My Maine Connection to prescreen and sign up.

The Food Bank administers two USDA commodity food programs, TEFAP for low-income families and CSFP for seniors. We will not be granted additional funding during the shutdown, but existing TEFAP and CSFP inventory can be used and we will continue to distribute these products to our partner food pantries.

While the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program was initially thought to only have enough funds for benefits in the short term, due to a combination of a USDA contingency fund as well as careful budgeting by state WIC authorities, benefits for WIC will continue for the month of October.  USDA has no legal authority to continue providing benefits under the Women, Infants and Children program during a shutdown, but states are able, with the help of the USDA contingency fund, to have the money and legal authority to fund the assistance program for the rest of the month.

Child Nutrition
Child Nutrition Programs including the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast will continue for the immediate weeks following the government shutdown.Through a combination of federal and state carryover funds from fiscal year 2013, schools should be able to continue serving meals through October. 

For more information on USDA Food & Nutrition Services programs, you can view the FNS Shutdown Plan here: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-fns-shutdown-plan.pdf 

Other programs not administered through USDA, including Meals on Wheels and Head Start, also depend on federal funding and may soon start to feel the effects of the shutdown. While political brinkmanship continues in Washington, Maine's most vulnerable citizens suffer the consequences. Look for updates as the situation evolves in the coming days and weeks.
GSFB Network is a blog for partner agencies of Good Shepherd Food Bank focused on feeding Maine's hungry.