Warner, Kaine voice concerns about food stamp program with government shutdown

Mark Warner, Tim Kaine on continuing resolutionU.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter today to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, stressing the importance of sustained funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The lawmakers expressed concern with the agency’s ability to support states and grocery stores, following a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue February SNAP benefits weeks ahead of schedule. The letter also highlights a lack of guidance for recipients who may be forced to go without the assistance if the government shutdown persists beyond the month of February.

USDA has been particularly impacted by the partial government shutdown. Nearly 95 percent of USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) workers have been furloughed, affecting the agency’s ability to run SNAP—a program that 776,000 Virginians rely on to meet their basic nutritional needs. SNAP keeps more than 150,000 Virginians, including 79,000 children, out of poverty every year by granting families and individuals access to nutritious foods.

“Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of issuing SNAP benefits a month early to ensure that individuals are able to receive their benefits for February. While we are pleased that USDA was able to identify funds to continue SNAP benefits during the shutdown, we are concerned the agency is not providing adequate support to states and grocery retailers, who are dealing with the massive logistical challenge of distributing SNAP benefits weeks earlier than normal,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued, “In addition, we are troubled by the lack of information from USDA about its ability to continue SNAP benefits through March and beyond if this shutdown continues into February… We urge you to provide additional information on other funding options you have at your disposal to continue SNAP payments for March and beyond if the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner… Given the importance of this program for many of our constituents, we ask that you do all you can to ensure the uninterrupted issuance of SNAP benefits as long as this shutdown continues.”

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