On the Menu: The Government Shutdown

By Kate Scully, Director of Government Affairs




Update 2/14/18: Today the House and Senate passed a bill to fund the government and the President is expected to sign it. This compromise has adverted another government shutdown right before the February 15th deadline. The signing of this bill will mean that the US Department of Agriculture will receive its funding and be able to issue SNAP benefits and other nutrition related services. However, the impact of the government shutdown is still being felt by SNAP recipient who may be struggling to put food on the table this month because they received their SNAP benefits early. Philabundance is working with our agency network to ensure they have enough food to be prepared for an increase in demand this month.


Update 1/29/19: As of last Friday the partial government shutdown ended, meaning federal workers are returning to work. Congress passed a bill that would open the government for three weeks, until February 15th, while Congress and the President work on a compromise on border security.


The bill provides funding for SNAP for 30 days after the February 15th deadline, or until March 17th. This means that even if there is another government shutdown SNAP benefits will be issued for March and hopefully April, if states are permitted to issue benefits early again.


As the shutdown already forced the USDA to release SNAP benefits early for February, we at Philabundance are concerned about the gap in time between when people received their February benefits, on January 16th, and when they will receive their March benefits. We also will be tracking how this will impact our agency network as people may begin to run out of their SNAP benefits early in February and need more support from the emergency food system.


Update 1/15/19 : Pennsylvania has committed to releasing SNAP benefit early to ensure people can receive their February benefits during the government shutdown. February benefits will be loaded onto the Electronic Benefit Cards (EBT) by the end of the day on January 16th. No other benefits will be release for February and it is unclear what will happen to March benefits if the government continues to be closed. It is important for anyone receiving SNAP to know:

February benefits were issued early and the amount on your EBT card is not a mistake.

No other issuance of benefits will be happening in February so the amount on an EBT card must last until, at the earliest, your March disbursement date.

If the shutdown, continues it is unclear if/when March benefits will be issued.

Anyone with their SNAP renewal or application in process should receive a one time payment once their paperwork is processed.

If you have questions call 877-395-8930 or in Philadelphia call 215-560-7226.


As the government shutdown continues, we at Philabundance are very concerned about how this will impact — and potentially increase — hunger in our area. With over 700,000 people in our service area already struggling with hunger, we are facing a crisis that will only be increased by this shutdown.


Right now, thousands of federal employees are not being paid for their work. They are either temporarily laid off or working without pay and may struggle to keep the lights on and food on the table. They are workers who keep us safe when we fly, keep our national parks beautiful and keep our streets and buildings clean.


If the shutdown continues, this will also be felt by individuals who rely on government programs. Recently, the USDA committed to providing SNAP and other nutritional benefits through the end of February but they made no promises if the shutdown continues into March. States will need to move quickly to release February’s benefits early and it might prove difficult for states to complete and confusing for SNAP beneficiaries. SNAP is the nation’s best and largest defense against hunger and millions of seniors, veteran, kids, people with disabilities and working families rely on the program to keep food on the table. In Philadelphia, over $65 million in SNAP benefits are allotted each month to over 450,000 people. It is a huge program that is critical for the health and well-being of so many. Any disruption will have devastating effects nationwide.


For recipients who rely on the Commodities Supplement Food Program (CSFP) or The Emergency Food Program (TEFAP) —this food is still available. CSFP supports the senior box program which we learned is now available until at least May. TEFAP provides food to the food bank system and should also have food available through March. While, thankfully, food will continue to flow, the financial support provided to food banks to distribute the food will not be paid during the shutdown.


For those government workers who need food assistance while their pay is suspended, find a location near you.


We at Philabundance hope that this government shutdown will come to an end quickly. We will do our best to serve everyone who needs food, but we know we cannot make up the difference of SNAP or other government programs. The longer it continues the more people will struggle to support themselves and their families. This shutdown is hurting our nation today and needs to end.


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