The shutdown has all of us a bit stressed out. It has been especially challenging for civil servants and people who rely on government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Both provide important resources to people in crisis and individuals on a limited income, including seniors and the disabled.
Yes, they are abused sometimes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who deserve them. And right now, those people are worried that the shutdown may mean SNAP is no longer funded – which means no more SNAP benefits.
But is that really true? Let’s take a look at the situation.
- First, a little bit about the program. SNAP (commonly known as food stamps) is a federal food support program that makes people eligible to receive financial assistance with buying healthy food when they’re struggling.
- Users on SNAP receive an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card that works in the same way as a debit card. The only difference is that SNAP cards can only be used to pay for certain items (mostly food and essentials).
- SNAP is a federal program overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Unfortunately, the fact that it is federal does mean that it’s susceptible to being influenced by the shut down. And yes, that means SNAP recipients may eventually lose their benefits depending on how long the shutdown continues.
- Now, here’s the good news. If you’re one of the 38 million Americans using SNAP, or you know someone who is, your benefits are guaranteed for January and February. SNAP is funded up until the end of January, but there’s a provision in the law that allows them to ahead-pay recipients in emergencies.
- That’s exactly what they intend to do. Program representatives will send out February’s payment on January 20th. Recipients will thus receive a total of two payments in January to ensure they have coverage for both months.
- But what happens at the end of February? Truthfully, we don’t know yet and neither do SNAP’s representatives. The USDA is reportedly encouraging Congress to work together and find a funding solution before March. They’re also researching other options in the meantime.