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Lisa Davis's picture

Congress has failed to pass a continuing resolution (CR) funding the government.  While critical nutrition assistance programs like SNAP, WIC and school meals are expected to have the resources to continue providing benefits through October, should the government shutdown continue into November, millions of vulnerable low-income families, seniors, and children would be at risk of losing this critical food assistance:


SNAP – SNAP has statutory authority to pay October benefits. This authority comes from ARRA, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to fund the temporary benefit boost. Additionally, about $2 billion in SNAP contingency funds are available and could be used to support state administrative activities to issue and process benefits. Contingency funds are provided in annual appropriations and do not expire until the end of FY2014. SNAP is providing about $6 billion per month in benefits, so unfortunately the contingency funds would not go very far if needed to help fund benefits. There is some uncertainty as to whether SNAP could pay benefits in November.


WIC  -- Initially there was some uncertainty as to how long WIC would be able to continue operations. However, the release yesterday of $125 million in contingency funds by the United States Department of Agriculture /Food and Nutrition Service (USDA/FNS), means that state WIC Agencies should be able to keep their WIC clinic doors open through at least the end of the month. Unfortunately, if the shutdown were to extend beyond October 31st,  the women, infants and children served by WIC could lose benefits.


Child Nutrition Programs – School breakfast and lunch programs and meals provided in day care settings (CACFP) would continue into October. This is also true for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Special Milk Program. School meal program and CACFP providers are reimbursed for meals served 30 days after the end of the service month, so providers would not be paid for meals provided in October until the end of November. Most state agencies will continue to have FY13 funds available for state administrative expenses. State administrative expenses are awarded for a two-year grant period and states are permitted to carry over up to 20 percent of their allocation into the second year of the grant period.


Commodity Supplemental Food Program – While existing inventories of food can be used, no additional funds will be available to support the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides a monthly food box to low-income seniors, during the shutdown. If the shutdown drags on, CSFP food packages may not be available to the seniors who depend on them.


The Emergency Food Assistance Program – Foods already ordered and scheduled for delivery to food banks and other emergency food providers will continue, but new orders cannot be placed until the government is back to work. A prolonged shutdown would lead lead to less food arriving on food bank shelves and hamper their ability to meet need in their communities. Funding to offset the cost of storing and distributing TEFAP will not be dispersed to states and food banks during the shutdown, meaning that food banks will have to divert funds from feeding clients to make up the shortfall.


Senior Nutrition Programs - During a government shutdown, the Department of Health and Human Services will not be able to fund Senior Nutrition programs, which includes both home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) and senior congregate feeding programs. Local Meals on Wheels programs will not be affected immediately. Programs are generally reimbursed after meals are already delivered. However, if the government stays closed for a lengthy period of time, this will result in a direct financial loss for Meals on Wheels programs that receive federal funding. Additionally, state or local funding reserves that have been used to make up for sequestration cuts are likely depleted, so any cushion that may have been there to weather the shutdown is gone.


Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations – No additional funds will be available to support FDIPR. While there would be some inventory available for use in food packages, no carryover or contingency funds would be available to support continued operations.

Additional Resources: 

Feeding America Overview of Federal Nutrition Programs

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Shutdown Plan

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