Food stamps, WIC may run out before government reopens

The partial government shutdown is going into its third week, leaving the Department of Agriculture, among others, unfunded.

There is enough money to cover the benefits — including SNAP, WIC and school lunches — through January and part of February, but past that, nobody knows for sure.

SNAP benefits, or food stamps, and WIC, a program for low-income women who are pregnant or have children under 5, are both funded through the Department of Agriculture. SNAP benefits are loaded onto an EBT card, allowing participants to shop at grocery stores for food and use it like a debit card. WIC provides vouchers for healthy foods like milk, cheese, cereal, juice, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, beans and formula for babies.

The benefits make up about half of the USDA’s budget; around 45 million U.S. citizens use SNAP benefits, 44-percent of which are children.

Anderson County Community Action Commission volunteer Susan Bowling said that it’s a concern for the nonprofit.

She also said that the IRS is not open due to the shutdown, so the early filers who count on their tax returns to cover bills and other expenses aren’t going to get their money anytime soon, either.

ACCAC offers a number of different programs to help those who are in need of food.

“We have different programs, like the Garden Seeds,” Bowling said. “You have to have a place to grow a garden and be willing to accept the responsibility of it. We work with the co-op and give them a voucher and they can pick out the seeds they have room for. It’s whatever your family will eat.

“But that’s not everybody’s thing. Like if you live in LaFollette Housing in Lake City, you can’t plant a garden.”

She said she’s very concerned. Community Action also delivers commodities to primarily seniors and offers boxes of food on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2 p.m.

In Congressional District 3, which includes Anderson, Hamilton, McMinn, Monroe, Morgan, Polk, Roane, Scott and Union Counties, as well as portions of Bradley and Campbell Counties, 46,505 households out of 285,079 receive SNAP benefits.

Seventy-two-percent of those receiving benefits had either one or two family members working.

The SNAP program is not automatically renewed and must be passed through the budget every year.