ST PAUL, Minn. — Hours before the President’s planned speech on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown, state leaders are bracing for what the extended shutdown could mean for the most vulnerable Minnesotans.
“SNAP benefits would run out for the people that we serve at the end of January,” said Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Hours after KARE 11's interview with Lourey, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a statement, outlining a plan to continue funding for SNAP through the end of February.
"And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided," Perdue's statement read, referring to a plan to have states request the February benefits early -- by Jan. 20 -- to take advantage of a: "provision of the just-expired Continuing Resolution (CR), which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 20 days of the CR's expiration."
But the USDA statement did not outline plans for federal funding for the SNAP and other programs beyond February.
“You know, truthfully, letting this get hung up in the politics of DC is simply unacceptable. I mean, people can’t wait for food,” Lourey noted.
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, more than 400,000 Minnesotans receive SNAP benefits every month, 70 percent of whom are children, elderly or people with disabilities. The average monthly benefit is $110 per month; and the total cost of the program is $44 million per month, paid for with federal funds.
Lourey said “teams” of people continue working on the state level for a Plan B, that would allow the program to continue beyond the end of January. But if they fail to identify alternative funding, letters announcing a temporary discontinuation of SNAP benefits could go out as early as January 20th.
“People sometimes think of this federal shutdown as an academic exercise. It’s not. It’s very, very real and it has tremendous effects on real people’s lives,” Lourey said.
Also on Tuesday, KARE 11 received the following statement from the Minnesota Department of Health related to the Minnesota Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program:
“The Minnesota Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program remains open during the partial shutdown of the federal government. WIC clinics remain open and WIC stores are accepting WIC benefits as usual. The state has funding to support Minnesota WIC services into March.
The state also has funding to cover participating seniors in the Commodity Supplemental Foods Program into April. This program provides healthy and nutritious food each month at no cost to eligible men and women over age 60.
While most MDH programs have not been directly impacted by the federal shutdown, these programs will certainly see more direct impacts as the shutdown continues.”