Ongoing partial government shutdown won't stop food stamp benefits in February, USDA confirms

Even if the partial government shutdown continues through February, those who require food assistance will still be able to receive benefits, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed.

Initially, the Agriculture Department (USDA) said benefits would only extend through the end of January. But Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled a plan Monday to keep the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) available through February.

Perdue said USDA, in conjunction with the Trump administration, came up with a “legally sound” solution to keep SNAP benefits funded through February.

“Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well,” he said in a statement.

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About 42 million Americans benefited with the SNAP program in 2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). About 70 percent of those people are in households that include children; nearly one-third of beneficiaries live with seniors or adults with disabilities.

Part of the plan includes issuing money to states for SNAP benefits earlier than usual and using funds provided from the expired continuing resolution, according to the USDA.

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Aside from SNAP benefits, school lunch programs will continue through February, USDA confirmed. WIC – which provides aid for pregnant women, new mothers and children – will also receive funding from the USDA.

The partial government shutdown has extended into a third week as President Trump and Democrats are seemingly at an impasse over funding for a border wall. Trump has demanded more than $5 billion to build the wall, an oft-repeated campaign promise.

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The USDA is one of nine federal departments shuttered.

While the SNAP program is automatically renewed, it still requires annual funding from Congress – thus initially leaving it in limbo should the partial government shutdown continue without a fix for SNAP into February.

Aside from those who depend on food assistance, the partial government shutdown has also hindered advocacy groups combating domestic and sexual violence. Many organizations nationwide that provide services such as shelter or counseling need to access grant money authorized through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was not extended when the government partially shuttered on Dec. 22 absent a funding deal.