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How The Government Shutdown Affects Food Stamps

We have been getting lots of questions from our readers about how the government shutdown affects food stamps benefits. In this post, we will answer the question in detail, including whether benefits are going to be distributed on time.

The post will cover:

  • What Happens to Food Stamps Office During Shutdown
  • Will Food Stamps Be Distributed on Time During Shutdown?
  • Update on the Shutdown

What Happens to Food Stamps Office During Shutdown?

According to a report by CNN, the USDA office overseeing the food stamps program has cut 95% of its workforce due to the government shutdown.

A visit to the USDA’s website shows the message that says:

“This website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding. Content on this website will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.” as shown in the image above.

This means that the workforce of the United States Department of Agriculture has been severely impacted by the shutdown so much so that even their website cannot be updated.

In addition, when we tried to access the USDA’s food stamps website, there was another notice that says:

“Due to a lapse in federal funding, the USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue.” as shown in the image below.

"How The Government Shutdown Affects Food Stamps"

According to CNN, the USDA’s offices to be hit hardest by the shutdown include the office of Food and Nutrition Services.

This is the office that oversees the Child Nutrition, Food Stamps Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

CNN reports that by the end of the fifth day of the shutdown, staffing will be cut by 95%. As of the time of writing this article, the shutdown is in it’s entering its 10th day.

We can safely assume that the food stamps office of the USDA is now without 95% of its workforce to manage the program and ensure that everything is running smoothly for the 38 million Americans on food stamps.

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How The Government Shutdown Affects Food Stamps

The biggest question is whether benefits will be distributed on time for food stamps recipients.

The USDA website is not clear on this fact. The website only addresses whether their online service will continue during the shutdown.

However, reporting by CNN states that eligible food stamps beneficiaries will still receive monthly benefits for January. We dug deeper and found the notice below on the USDA’s website to support CNN’s reporting.

"Will I get food stamps during government shutdown?"

It does not say anything about when in January the benefits will start if the shutdown continues.

In addition, what happens if the shutdown continues into February? Will the benefits continue?

"USDA Office Notice on Federal Shutdown"

What We Think Will Is Going On

Currently, the only solid information we have is the one from the USDA, saying that food stamp benefits will be paid in January.

Since the date food stamps benefit are paid varies by state, we are not sure whether the USDA is saying that all food stamp benefits that are due in January will be paid in all states.

With 95% of their workforce gone, we are not sure how that’s possible but food stamps benefits are paid electronically on EBT cards, so perhaps preparations were made to pay benefits before the staff was sent home.

The real question is what happens if the government shutdown drags on.

Given that funding for the program was approved last year for this fiscal year, we are assuming that food stamps payments will go on as scheduled even if the shutdown drags on into February and March. We will be on the lookout for reporting confirming this or otherwise.

Have You Received Benefits During Shutdown?

We would like to hear from our readers. If you were supposed to receive your benefits after the government shut down and it came through on time, we would like to hear from you.

Let us know in the comments section below. Be sure to provide your state information and when your food stamps benefits were paid.

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Update – January 7, 2019

While all the reporting we have seen points to food stamps benefits being OK in January during the shutdown, there is doubt about February.

According to the Washington Post, if the shutdown drags on into February, food stamps benefits will face funding issues.

The issue is that the food stamps program requires annual funding from Congress. Congress has not allocated funding beyond January, and the program’s emergency reserves would not cover even two-thirds of February’s payments.

We will keep an eye on this and provide another update once we get clarity on what is going to happen to food stamps benefits in February. In the meantime, if you hear anything different, please share it in the comments section below.

Update – January 15, 2019

The USDA has announced that food stamps benefits for February will be paid on or before January 20th, 2019.

The payment for February is being made early for all food stamps beneficiaries because the USDA has discovered a way for all benefits for the month of February to be paid using $4.8 billion in emergency funds.

However, because of the rules attached to the emergency funds, the department has until January 20th to use the funds to make the payment or it will no longer be available.

That is good news for all food stamps beneficiaries who were worried their benefits will not be paid in February should the government shutdown drag on.

Therefore if you see more money on your EBT cards this January, it is not a bonus payment, it is not extra money. It is your February food stamps payment.

It will be the only benefit payment you will receive for the month of February, therefore you have to budget the money carefully.

Once this money is gone, there will be no more funds for March, unless the government shutdown is resolved.

Here is a message on the state of Maryland’s food stamps website confirming the January payment of February food stamps benefits.

"will food stamps for march be paid during shutdown"

We would like to hear from you if your February food stamps benefit has been paid early in January. Please tell us in the comments section below.

Some Stores Not Taking Food Stamps During Shutdown?

As the video above explains, some grocery stores have stopped taking food stamps during the shutdown. Here’s why:

Grocery stores need a license to process EBT transactions. That license has to be renewed every 5 years.

The EBT licenses for about 2500 retailers around the country expired right before the shutdown. The affected stores have not been able to renew their EBT processing licenses with the government due to the shutdown.

As a result, they have not been able to process any food stamps transactions due to the shutdown.

Have you been impacted by this? Let us know in the comments section below.

Kwame Kuadey

Kwame Kuadey writes about personal finance and the social safety net. His career started in banking but he caught the entrepreneurial bug and has spent the last decade building successful businesses, including an Inc. 500 Company. Kwame believes everyone has the power to improve their quality of life by seeking knowledge and taking action. In 2012, Kwame founded Empower Media to help low-income households improve their financial situation. His expertise is in topics relevant to low-income households, including government benefits and assistance, banking products, access to credit, plus tools & resources to help reduce income volatility and build wealth. Kwame has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Washington Post, ABC, and NPR.



Mary Brooks

Saturday 19th of January 2019

I have not received my February benefits. My benefits come on the 15th of the month, it is now the 19th.


Sunday 6th of January 2019

There are people whose Snap benefits have been issued but they are being denied use at the store, how will we eat?

Comments are closed.

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