Millions of low-income Americans could have a harder time affording food if the government does not reopen before March 1st. The Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will continue providing food stamps through February.
“We issue out approximately $8.6 million each month,” said Sean Brown, Deputy Commissioner for the Department for Children and Family Services.
More than 70,000 people depend on 3SquaresVT, Vermont’s food stamp program. 80% of those people are children, disabled, or elderly.
“It would be an extreme hardship and many families would be forced to make some really tough decisions about paying the electric bill, the house payment, the rent payment,” said Brown.
Initially, funding was only secured through January. The department was working on a contingency plan in which the state would pay the benefits itself and then seek reimbursement when the federal government reopens.
If people are unable to receive SNAP benefits, many will turn to local food banks and shelves. The Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf serves around 300 people everyday, many who use food stamps. If the shutdown continues, staff members say they will have to look into increasing their food supply.
“We’re going to proceed as normal,” said Anna McMahon at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. “But we’re here for folks who need help and assistance”
DCF must meet an early issuance deadline of January 20th in order to secure benefits for February.