- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
USDA says SNAP protected from federal shutdown
Despite the federal shutdown which hit its third week, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will continue to have access to their benefits in February, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday.
“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the Administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” Perdue said in a press release.
“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 added.
Key areas of the U.S. government shut down on Dec. 22 following a standoff between Trump and Democratic lawmakers over the president’s request for $5 billion in funding to build a wall on US-Mexico border.
The USDA said when the department’s funding expired on Dec. 21, 2018, SNAP benefits for January were fully funded.
“States have already received that money and have been distributing it to participants,” USDA said. “Since the lapse in appropriations, USDA has been reviewing options available to the department for funding February benefits without an additional appropriation from Congress.”
USDA said it is working with individual states to release the benefits earlier than usual in order to protect SNAP participants’ access for February.
USDA said it will rely on a provision of the just-expired continuing resolution, which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration.
“USDA will be reaching out to states to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February,” the press release said. “States will have until Jan. 20 to request and implement the early issuance. Once the early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time.”
In light of the USDA announcement, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services said the Bureau of Economic Security is working on processing all February 2019 renewal applications on or before Jan. 20.
Highlights of the USDA’s announcement are as follows:
USDA will use the authority under the last continuing resolution to issue February benefits. The Continuing Resolution that expired December 21, 2018 provided an appropriation for programs like SNAP and Child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations during the 30 day-period following the expiration of the Act.
States will need to take action to issue February benefits on or before Jan. 20. We will be reaching out to States to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20 to implement this early issuance.
Once these early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time. SNAP monthly issuance for February is estimated to be approximately $4.8 billion and State administrative expense (SAE) is estimated at about $350 million for a total need of approximately $5.1 billion.
This approach requires careful coordination. FNS has noticed States to hold their issuance files. States would, instead, implement an early issuance strategy, providing February benefits to SNAP participants on or before January 20, 2019. We will be working with States individually on how this approach is executed, in order to issue benefits to eligible households in the most efficient and equitable manner possible.
Child Nutrition Programs
For these programs, including school meals and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, States already have funding to cover CN program operations for the month of January (approximately $2.1 billion) on the basis of the last continuing resolution.
This week, we will provide an additional two months’ worth of funding, consistent with the standard practice of funding these programs on a quarterly basis.
Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Programs
For WIC, FNS has identified resources to cover projected State expenditures for February. The agency will allocate at least $248 million to State agencies this week, and we have identified an additional $350 million in unspent prior year funds to allocate at a later date. A total of approximately $600 million in funding will be provided to WIC State agencies. We will continue to work with States to make resources available to the extent possible.
For the WIC Farmers’ Market (FMNP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs, FNS does not anticipate significant operational impacts as they are seasonal benefit programs with annual grant funds.
For the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, food deliveries planned for February will continue. Due to the lapse, States have not received their 2019 caseload assignments, so CSFP-participating States must operate at 2018’s caseload levels. Similarly, states have received no additional administrative funds since the lapse, and none can be made available until the lapse ends.
For the Emergency Food Assistance Program, food deliveries planned for February (including entitlement, bonus and trade mitigation) will continue. States have received no additional administrative funds since the lapse, and none can be made available until the lapse ends.
For the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, food deliveries planned for February will continue. FDPIR programs have administrative funding through Jan. 31 and are expected to operate the program.