WASHINGTON — About 780,000 low-income Maryland residents would be cut off from food assistance in early October if the federal government shuts down.
That did not happen during the 16-day shutdown in 2013.
The government essentially runs out of money for most operations and programs at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. Democratic and Republican lawmakers so far have not been able to agree on legislation to cover spending for the start of the next fiscal year.
Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families, would be interrupted if Congress cannot reach a resolution, the Department of Agriculture warned Friday.
The food benefits are known in Maryland as the Food Supplement Program, which serves approximately 780,000 people, according to the USDA’s preliminary figures from June. Roughly 46 million Americans receive such benefits nationwide.
The program had reserve funds to keep benefits flowing in 2013, but that is not the case this year, according to agriculture officials.
“If Congress does not act to avert a lapse in appropriations, then USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October and will be forced to stop providing benefits within the first several days of October,” Kevin Concannon, the USDA’s undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in a statement.
“Once that occurs, families won’t be able to use these benefits at grocery stores to buy the food their families need,” he said.
In a fact sheet distributed to those receiving food assistance, the USDA said that the benefits will be available only for the first couple of days in October in the event of a shutdown. The USDA recommended that families stock up on food just in case.
Concannon said in his statement that the USDA believes Congress has enough time to prevent this shutdown, and the agency supports a “short-term continuing resolution to fund government operations.”
The Senate is expected to vote on a such stop-gap spending bill Monday, then send it to the House, where its future is uncertain, especially after the surprise announcement Friday by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that he will resign from the Congress next month.