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How a Prolonged Government Shutdown Will Affect SNAP Benefits

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    The shutdown affecting large swaths of the federal government is already the second longest shutdown in US history and, with both sides being as far apart as ever, it is not a stretch to think we may be in for a protracted stalemate. It's easy to turn the shutdown into yet another political battle between Democrats and Republicans, but peel the onion back one or two layers and you quickly begin to see that this shutdown will directly impact tens of millions of Americans ability to put food on the table in the not too distant future.

    Federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is due to run out on January 31 and over 40 million Americans who depend on the program for food assistance may soon see their benefits severely reduced or outright frozen if Congressional leaders and the President can't find a compromise out of the current impasse. As if the immediate impact on individuals and families isn't bad enough, the trickle down effect on local grocery and convenience stores that rely on customers with SNAP benefits can turn this into one of the worst manufactured crises to hit our country in many years and its ramifications will be felt for years to come.

    If you're on SNAP and are worried about how a prolonged shutdown will directly impact you then I would encourage you to reach out to your state Department of Human Services (or equivalent) and ask what their contingency plan is if SNAP funding dries up.

    I have to stress that there's still a few weeks to go before any potential disruption in funding, so your benefits for the month of January are not affected at all. However, if there is no agreement to reopen the government by February 1 then there is a very real possibility of a disruption in SNAP benefits.

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    JaredS Wrote:

    As if the immediate impact on individuals and families isn't bad enough, the trickle down effect on local grocery and convenience stores that rely on customers with SNAP benefits can turn this into one of the worst manufactured crises to hit our country in many years and its ramifications will be felt for years to come.

    I usually expect for shutdowns to go to the last second and end just before they start to do lasting damage. But this is no ordinary administration.

    Am curious of the part where you say 'for years to come'. I get that this will be bad and agree with you otherwise. But what do you mean by that exactly? How will this reverberate years down the road? Wouldn't things get back on track more or less once the govt opens back up?

    Or do you mean like looming govt shutdowns down the road, for years to come?

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    J.K.Logic Wrote: Am curious of the part where you say 'for years to come'. I get that this will be bad and agree with you otherwise. But what do you mean by that exactly? How will this reverberate years down the road? Wouldn't things get back on track more or less once the govt opens back up?

    I'm worried about the domino effect of a prolonged disruption in the food stamp program on the individuals and families who rely on them and the businesses who predominately sell to those with food assistance.

    My main concern is this hypothetical, but very real, scenario. February 1 rolls around and the SNAP program is suddenly out of money. Overnight, millions of Americans will no longer be able to purchase groceries. Convenience and grocery stores located in low-income neighborhoods suddenly find themselves facing a massive reduction in revenue with no clear end in sight. If the disruption lasts one or two days then they won't have much to be concerned about, but if it drags on for weeks or months they may decide to close up shop because their revenue stream dried up.

    America is already riddled with "food deserts" and I worry that a prolonged shutdown, especially one affecting the SNAP program, will inject steroids into the problem.

    I'm well aware that this is a "worst case scenario," but I also think it's important for SNAP recipients to be aware of what the worst case scenario is. My hope is that we solve this impasse in the next few days and this shutdown will go in the history books with prior ones, but we also should understand the real life consequences of a prolonged shutdown.

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    Good points. That's more clear now. So how long do you expect the shutdown to last?

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    Three weeks is an eternity in shutdown days. While it is certainly a possibility that millions of Americans SNAP assistance could freeze up overnight on Feb. 1, I have a hard time believing that it will become a reality.

    My guess is that President Trump is going to declare a national emergency and attempt to build his big, beautiful wall without Congressional approval. Republicans will capitulate because then they will be able to get themselves out of the jam they've found themselves in and reopen the government while still saving face about Trump's long promised wall. House Democrats will immediately file a lawsuit against the Administration in a "friendly" district court (both sides do it all the time) and will likely be able to get a Federal Judge to freeze any wall construction pending litigation. The litigation could drag on for months or years until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling or until one side blinks.

    In the meantime, the government will reopen, we will move on to the next manufactured crises, and the fight over the border wall will fade into the background for awhile.

    I should stress that this is simply my guess as to what will happen in the coming days. Anything can happen and nothing surprises me anymore, but I think this is the most likely scenario.