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San Diegans relying on food stamps await word of program's future under shutdown

Posted at 3:20 PM, Jan 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-07 21:20:09-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As the government shutdown approaches its third week, San Diego’s food stamp recipients are preparing for possible changes to their benefits.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, helps feed roughly 40 million Americans. According to the USDA, eligible recipients are guaranteed benefits through January.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to make a statement this week on SNAP funding into February, according to San Diego Hunger Coalition spokesman Joseph Shumate, citing the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Any SNAP adjustments could also increase the burden on San Diego charities. Many Feeding San Diego beneficiaries also rely on SNAP to help their families, the organization said.

"For every one meal we do, the SNAP program does 12 meals," said Feeding San Diego CEO, Vince Hall. "That is a 12 to 1 ratio, so any cut to SNAP is going to have dramatic effects on charities already struggling to keep up with the demand, the unmet need for food across our communities."

Hall says they are preparing for worst-case scenarios, like the shutdown continuing for weeks or months.

According to CBPP, the USDA may rule that the only appropriation available for SNAP after January is the program’s $3 billion “contingency reserve,” which was made available through the fiscal year 2018 appropriations act. But SNAP benefits currently amount to about $4.8 billion a month, so the $3 billion reserve cannot fully fund February benefits.

Other feeding programs, including WIC, which provides food aid and nutrition counseling for pregnant women, new mothers and children, and food distribution programs on Indian reservations, will continue on a local level, but additional federal funding won't be provided.

School lunch programs will continue through February.

The shutdown started Dec. 21. About 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, while 380,000 are being forced to stay home.

Associated Press contributed to this report.