Millions of Americans could face going without the benefit that allows them to purchase food if the government shutdown continues into Feb.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps, costs an average of around $4.8 billion per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But because of the government shutdown, the program has only $3 billion in emergency reserves for Feb.
More than 19 million households in the United States receive food stamps, accounting for nearly 39 million people. Each household receives on average $245.28 per month.
But because of the shutdown, USDA has no money to pay for the program in the ensuing months. The agency also had to furlough approximately 95 percent of Food and Nutrition Services, the office that oversees the SNAP program.
If the $1.8 billion shortfall for February benefits were spread evenly across the 19 million households that receive SNAP benefits, each would see a cut of about $90 per month for their overall grocery budget, according to Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
If the political standoff that began Dec. 22 continued into March, these households would receive no money to buy food.
“Even if the President and Congress resolve the shutdown by February, depending on the decisions the Administration makes in the coming one to two weeks, households could experience a substantial delay in receiving their full SNAP allotment for February because of the operational challenges that states and EBT contractors face,” Rosenbaum said in an email.
Businesses are a secondary victim if the shutdown causes the program to run out of cash. The money spent by SNAP beneficiaries is typically split between small business owners and major retailers, like Walmart.
Tens of billions of dollars could be on the line for hundreds of thousands of businesses across the U.S.