House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation is giving food stamp recipients and Planned Parenthood supporters hope that Congress will avoid a government shutdown.
Boehner’s resignation — announced Friday morning and said to be effective at the end of October — is giving Connecticut advocates and others hope that Congress will pass a “clean” continuing resolution funding the program.
Republicans have threatened to defunded Planned Parenthood as part of any continuing resolution, but a vote to do so in the Senate failed again Thursday, blocked by Senate Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday that it was the ninth time since 2007 that Republicans have tried to defund the family planning organization.
The latest attempt follows the release of a series of videos by an anti-abortion group purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing arrangements to provide fetal tissues to medical laboratories. The videos, Blumenthal said, have been widely discredited.
“The resignation announced today by John Boehner is a very positive sign that we will have a clean continuing resolution without efforts to defund Planned Parenthood next week,” Blumenthal said Friday at a press conference in Hartford. “It’s good news for American democracy because efforts to defund Planned Parenthood should not hold hostage the budget for the American people.”
He said the resignation means there is a path forward to avoid a government shutdown.
Food stamp funding is also at risk for more than 420,000 Connecticut food stamp recipients.
In its latest communication with the states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture told Connecticut’s Department of Social Services to maintain food benefit operations even though it’s uncertain whether there will be enough money to fund them with the threat of a government shutdown looming.
In its Thursday letter, the USDA said “the administration strongly believes that a lapse in appropriations should not occur and there is enough time for Congress to prevent it.”
However, if Congress fails to act the USDA “would have limited resources to finance October SNAP benefits,” the USDA letter states.
More than 420,000 Connecticut residents are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — including children, parents, singles, elderly people, and adults with disabilities. The majority of recipients live in a home where an adult is employed.
If the government shuts down, recipients’ cards would be frozen and they won’t be able to purchase food, even if they had money left over from the previous month.
Like other states, Connecticut administers the benefits through a federal account. About $60 million in federal food benefits are issued monthly to eligible Connecticut households, and those funds help fuel the food economy throughout the state.
“The upshot — while Connecticut and 49 other states and U.S. territories are now cleared to send October SNAP benefit information to our EBT vendor systems, we don’t know yet when the benefits will actually be available for the clients to access at supermarkets, groceries, farmers’ markets and other participating EBT retailers,” the Connecticut Department of Social Services wrote Thursday in a letter to its community partners.
Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, said she gets the sense that the administration is feeling more optimistic that there won’t be a government shutdown.
“What this indicates to me is that the administration is feeling more secure,” Nolan said.
The government was shut down in 2013 for 16 days. At that time, the state of Connecticut chipped in $800,000 to keep Head Start programs open in Bridgeport.
It’s unclear how much help, if any, Connecticut could provide this time to help maintain federal programs. It currently has a $600,000 surplus and just cut $103 million in state funds to keep its budget balanced.