BLOOMFIELD, CT — The federal government shutdown, according to officials, could begin impacting federal nutrition programs like food stamps and other programs for the poor and elderly later this month.
Jason Jakubowski, president of Foodshare, said there is enough funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, through the end of January. But there’s only about $3 billion in reserves, which doesn’t fully fund the program for the month of February, which means SNAP benefits would be reduced by 60 percent.
There’s another program called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes packages of canned fruit, vegetables, juice, milk, cheese and other items to about 2,480 low-income Connecticut residents age 60 and older. That program is also in jeopardy if the shutdown continues.
Food banks like Foodshare across the country are beginning to feel the pressure.
The USDA paid for its shipments through March before the shutdown took effect. However, the federal agency is no longer reimbursing states for storing and distributing the products, which costs $5.3 million a month.
Jakubowski said they will continue to try and figure out ways to keep it going without that reimbursement if the shutdown continues.
But the shutdown presents another problem.
If the 384,000 Connecticut residents on food stamps stop receiving those benefits, more will turn to food banks for help and many of those food banks don’t have the resources to handle the additional crush of people.
“SNAP right now is America’s first line of defense against hunger,” Jakubowski said. “SNAP allows people go into grocery stores to purchase food for them and their families. If we don’t have that we imagine they are going to go to one of our pantries or a mobile food share truck. That’s going to put more pressure on food banks like us.”
There’s also an economic impact if SNAP is cut. He said the benefits infuse about $650 million a year into the Connecticut grocery industry.
“Does that mean higher prices for people?” Jakubowski said. “What is that going to mean for people in the long-term?”
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro co-signed a letter Tuesday with 128 House Democrats asking the USDA how it plans to address the shutdown.
“What are the USDA’s specific plans for administering SNAP after January 2019?”
The letter further asks how the USDA will instruct SNAP state agencies to reduce SNAP benefits for the month of February.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—our nation’s leading anti-hunger program—is on the precipice of massive benefits cuts once its funding runs out,” DeLauro said. “If that happens, people will go hungry—children, veterans, seniors —all because of a tantrum by the President. That is unimaginably cruel. That is why House Democrats have passed bipartisan legislation to reopen the government. The President must put the interests of the American people above that of his own ego.”
Using the Foodshare as his backdrop, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the “Trump shutdown” is going to hurt real people and create hunger.
Blumenthal said they can disagree on a lot of things with President Donald Trump, “but let’s re-open the government” and then have a discussion about building a wall along the southern border.
He said hungry people deserve to have food to eat. He said the reserve of $3 billion will be exhausted in a matter of weeks “and then there will be nothing.”
“The people who depend on these boxes of food will not have them,” Blumenthal said. “That means children and seniors will not have what they need to survive.”
Blumenthal said Democrats want to re-open the government, temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security, debate the wall, but keep the government working for people.
Trump is expected to address the nation tonight from the Oval Office at 9 p.m. All the major networks and some cable stations are expected to cover the address, which Trump tweeted will be “on the humanitarian and national security crisis on our Southern border.”