Gov't shutdown threatens funding for federal food assistance

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania residents who receive federal benefits to help cover food costs will get their February funds on Friday, Jan. 18, the state Department of Human Services announced.

But if the partial government shutdown continues after February, officials are uncertain if there will be enough funding to continue regular payments.

In a Monday, Jan. 14, news release, Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified her department on Jan. 8 that the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will be fully funded through February but that payments must be disbursed by Sunday, Jan. 20.

SNAP is funded through the USDA, and the early payments will be the only funding disbursed to beneficiaries for the month of February.

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Volunteer Becky Naylor, of Windsor Township, helps to pack holiday meal boxes for the Give A Meal Program at York County Food Bank in York City, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for February will be paid Friday, Jan. 18. Future payments are uncertain if the partial government shutdown continues.

In a statement Tuesday, Jan. 15, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said children suffering from food insecurity and other vulnerable populations are hurting from the shutdown.

"It’s time to end it," Casey said. "Sen. McConnell and the president could put an end to this Trump shutdown by bringing to the floor and signing the same funding bills that congressional Republicans have already supported."

Casey added that congressional Republicans "cannot be allowed to use hungry people as pawns."

Andres Anzola, a spokesman for Casey's office, said Jan. 20 is the expiration date for a 30-day appropriation that went into effect Dec. 21, which is when the government's most recent temporary funding bill expired.

FILE- In this June 14, 2018, file photo, nectarines, plums, mangos and peaches are marked at a fruit stand in a grocery store in Aventura, Fla. Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet one of their basic needs last year, according to a new study by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization. That includes paying for food, health care, housing or utilities. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

"SNAP, among other programs, is funded through February," said Bill Jaffee, spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. "Sen. Toomey is hopeful that a compromise will be reached to end the partial government shutdown before further action is needed to address these programs."

A state Department of Human Services spokesman said that if the partial government shutdown continues after February, SNAP payments will be determined by the amount of funding available through the USDA.

York County spokesman Mark Walters said county residents who are concerned about having enough food should call PA211 for information about the nearest food pantry and for the days and times of distribution.

SNAP recipients who have questions also can call the statewide customer service center at 1-877-395-8930.

Editor's note: A reference to the York County Food Pantry Clearing House has been removed from this story, as the clearing house is no longer in operation.