Partial Government Shutdown may affect SNAP benefits and local food banks

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- The partial government shutdown is now in it’s third week. If it’s not reopened by February it could impact millions of Americans who rely on SNAP benefits.

Nutrition programs like SNAP are funded through the Farm Bill and USDA. 
Those benefits will be available through January. There is a 3 billion dollar reserve fund for SNAP, but to cover all of February’s benefits it will cost 5 billion dollars.

Those with the Low Country Food Bank said they’re worried what will happen if the government doesn’t re-open in the coming weeks.

Numbers from South Carolina DSS show Horry County has the third highest number of households receiving SNAP benefits in the state in November 2018 alone. That number was 17,482 households and 37,034 individuals who rely on the program. SNAP doesn’t supply all their needs for the month. Barbara Miller said that’s where the Low Country Food Bank steps in.

“If those SNAP benefits are shut down or taken away there will be a greater need for the food that we can produce, hand out, and distribute,” said Barbara Miller, Agency Relations Coordinator for Low Country Food Bank in Horry, Georgetown, and Williamsburg counties.

The Low Country Food Bank gets food from local retailers and the federal government.
“The TEFAP commodity program food. So those foods fund those agencies that are USDA approved, and that’s a lot of commodity food they get to distribute as well,” said Miller.

That food is funded through March. Miller said most people who come into the food bank and receive benefits are the working poor who are greatly impacted by the shutdown.

“Usually January, February, March are our low months for the amount of clients we see because of the tax refund, but if that doesn’t come through for a lot of folks that’s a huge impact on low income families,” said Miller.

More than 72 percent of SNAP participants in the state are families with children. They’re also concerned about the impact on child nutrition programs like WIC and after school meals. Miller also said Hurricane Florence brought more people into the food bank.

“From the flood and the hurricane. A lot of people who were normally working 40 hours a week, some were out of work for one or two whole weeks and that really upset their whole financial structure of their households,” said Miller.

Miller said they will serve the community as long as possible, but it’s not something they can sustain long term with out help from government agencies. She also said TSA workers did a huge fundraiser for them in November and December, and now those workers aren’t getting a paycheck. 

Miller said they can always use volunteers. For more information click here.

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