USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP—issued its February payments early.
About 39 million people are now spending their SNAP payments not knowing when the next one will come due to the federal government shutdown. The Department of Agriculture, among the nine federal agencies that shut down in December, is warning that it may have to severely cut the nation’s largest food aid program. In other words, unless the government reopens before the end of January, millions of Americans living below the poverty line could be left in the lurch and their access to food threatened by February. The Department of Agriculture funding for SNAP expires this weekend.
WIC covers about 8 million new mothers, infants, and children under 5 years old. There is enough funding available already out to the state and local departments that administer the program to provide WIC benefits through at least mid-February. Experts expect benefits would start to be reduced in the latter half of February, or March at the latest, depending on how much funding states can make available to stretch out. Benefits could start to be cut in a number of ways: WIC programs could start issuing benefits for just one month, instead of the usual three, or they might cut or end benefits for new mothers and older children, in order to prioritize the pregnant mothers and infants who rely on the program.
Between December and January, the contracts of 1,150 Section 8 units expired, putting in jeopardy the housing of tens of thousands of people enrolled in the project-based rental assistance subsidy program (over half of whom are elderly or disabled). Another 500 contracts are set to expire if the shutdown continues into February. So far, it seems that many property owners have been able to make do by dipping into reserve funds, but within a few weeks these savings may start to dry up. This could force landlords to put necessary repairs on hold. Or, in the case of the not insignificant minority of units owned by non-profit developers—that is, community development corporations and housing organizations that aim to provide for those who are unable to obtain housing through the private market—it could mean cutting off additional services like afterschool and workforce programs. At worst, the funding cuts could lead landlords to demand that tenants pay the full rent themselves, or else face eviction. "Owners in many cities will be faced with financial disruption, foreclosure, or bankruptcy if they're not able to pay their mortgage or meet the other costs of the property," says Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, a policy-oriented housing non-profit. "This really is going to ripple through the whole housing market system."
This destruction and heartlessness must end. Call your Senators to demand they reopen the government NOW.