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Government shutdown could threaten SNAP program

A large part of the Farm Bill is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program helps low-income and disadvantaged people receive the food they need for themselves and their families. This program remained operational during the first part of the government shutdown, now it is in jeopardy.

The government shutdown is going on three weeks. The longer the shutdown goes on, the more effect it is going to have on programs which are deemed essential. Senator Chuck Grassley made the same observation in Tuesday’s Ag media call.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the SNAP program. There are contingency plans in place for when a shutdown occurs. The SNAP program has 39 million people using its services. This costs the government roughly four billion dollars a month. Reports are varying as to how much money the USDA has in reserve to help fund the program. Estimates are as low as three billion to as high as six billion dollars. This means at an average cost of a billion dollars a week, the program could be funded for three to six weeks of a government shutdown. As we enter week three of the shutdown, an exact figure becomes more crucial.

The government entered a partial shutdown, in December, when a budget failed to pass and be signed by President Trump. The President has been standing firm in his call for funding for a border wall. With the House now being controlled by the Democrats, they have made it clear no budget bill which includes border wall funding will come from them. Senate Republicans have said that no House bill will be passed in their chamber without border wall funding.

It seems the longer this argument drags on, the more people are going to be affected in one way or another. It may just be both sides are counting on enough Americans being angry that they will raise their voices to one side of the argument or another. Congress has never allowed the SNAP program to go without funding. If the program were to be in trouble, expect it to be something which will be addressed quickly. This is a high stakes game currently being played. However, playing poker with other people’s chips is a poor way to stake one’s bet.