Oh, SNAP! Farm bill expires; WIC and welfare programs threatened by government shutdown

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Remember the congressional fight over the farm bill and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aka food stamps appropriations last month? Thanks to the Tea-Publican manufactured crisis for governing-by-extortion taking the Continuing Resolution and federal debt ceiling hostage so the Tea Party radicals can get their ya-yas out shutting down the federal government, these friggin' geniuses let the farm bill appropriations expire, which could have severe consequences if not dealt with soon.

Congress' other failure: Farm bill expired Oct. 1 – phillyburbs.com:

Although it was largely overshadowed by the federal government
shutdown, Congress this week also failed to pass a new federal farm bill
before the law’s Oct. 1 expiration date.

What does that mean for people who don’t live or work on farms?
Not much right now, but agriculture advocates warn that if the standoff
continues into next year, there will likely be drastic consequences[.]

How drastic? How does paying $7 for a gallon of milk sound?

It may seem far-fetched, but if a new bill isn’t
signed into law by Jan. 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be
forced to revert back to an antiquated 1949 law requiring the government
to compensate dairy farmers based on the production costs from that
era. If that occurs, officials expect milk and dairy prices to
skyrocket, possibly even double
.

Dairy subsidies aren’t the only ones that would be impacted. Local
soybean and grain farmers also stand to lose a lot if the farm bill
impasse isn’t resolved quickly because of the loss of crop insurance and
subsidies.

“Fruit and vegetable growers participate some,
but really it’s the grain guys, soybean and corn growers that will be
most affected,” said Ray Samulis, Burlington County agent for the
Rutgers University Agricultural Extension Service.

The farm bill’s holdup has had little to do with
agriculture programs and has mostly centered on disagreements between
Democrats and Republicans over cuts to the nation’s food stamps program,
now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

Democrats in control of the Senate have proposed
$4.5 billion in reductions. The Republican-controlled House of
Representatives has approved a bill with a $40 billion cut that would be
achieved through stricter eligibility rules.

There was some progress toward a resolution
Tuesday when the Senate asked the House to agree to “conference”
negotiations on their separate bills.

Right now, the short-term impacts from the farm
bill’s expiration are minimal. With the law’s expiration at midnight
Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture lost its authority to run
agricultural export, global food aid, disaster relief and several
conservation programs.

Those programs are more important for farmers’ long-term planning and profits.

Liz Thompson, research associate with the New Jersey Farm Bureau,
said the government shutdown, which shuttered USDA programs, was
probably a more pressing concern to New Jersey farmers. But she said the
expiration of the farm bill could be a major issue if Congress fails to
reach an agreement soon.

“The impacts (of the farm bill expiration) aren’t
felt as immediately as the shutdown, but the sooner Congress gets back
to work and gets this done, the better,” Thompson said.

She cited the loss of funding for the USDA’s
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program as one of the noticeable
casualties of the bill’s expiration. The program provides coupons for
low-income seniors to redeem for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers
markets.

USDA conservation programs also won’t accept new applications until a new farm bill is approved.

“Everything is on hold and won’t be accepting new applications,” Thompson said.

An immediate impact of the shutdown is on those individuals receiving WIC support. WIC support for moms, babies threatened during shutdown:

Low-income mothers, pregnant women, babies and young children who
rely on government assistance to purchase food could see their help cut
off now that the government is shut down.

Nearly 9
million mothers and children receive benefits under the Special
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The federal program gives grants to states for supplemental food, health
care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant women,
new mothers, and to infants and children up to age five who are
nutritionally at risk. The program serves 53 percent of all infants born
in the U.S.

Since the government partially shut down at
Midnight on Oct. 1, however, its funding has dried out. The Department
of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the program, noted in a memo
last week without congressional approval of new spending, there won't
be any funding available for WIC's clinical services, food benefits or
administrative costs
.

"States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or
other sources, including spend forward authority, to continue operations
for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain
operations for a longer period," the memo said. "Contingency funds will
be available to help States – but even this funding would not fully
mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October
."

Other federal food assistance programs won't be impacted by the shutdown.

[T]he Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly
known as the food stamp program — is still operating with funding that
was appropriated through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(often referred to as the stimulus). SNAP also has about $2 billion in
contingency funding that Congress approved this year but that doesn't
expire until the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs — including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care
Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk — are also still
operating. The USDA explains that meal providers are reimbursed 30 days
after the end of the service month, and there is some limited carryover
funding available at this point. Once Congress gets its act together,
and reauthorizes government spending, the USDA expects to get funding to
cover the cost of October expenses.

In Arizona, More
than 5K Ariz. families denied welfare checks
:

More than 5,000 low-income Arizona families failed to get their welfare
checks Thursday in one of the more tangible early effects of the federal
government shutdown.

The group included people who had been
approved for cash assistance, which averages $207 per person, but were
not paid because money for the federally funded, state-run program had
run out.
About 11,000 other families already had received their aid this
month, but their benefits could be affected if the political stalemate
in Washington stretches into November.

In all, 5,150 families
eligible for help from the federally funded Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families program missed payments on Thursday
. In August, the
Arizona Department of Economic Security distributed $3.3 million under
TANF. Two-thirds of recipients are children, according to DES reports.

The
loss of federal funding in Arizona on Thursday not only affected
welfare checks but also affected some privately operated safety-net
organizations, including shelters for the homeless and victims of
domestic violence, which will lose funds earmarked to them in federal
block grants.

Nicole Moon, a spokeswoman for DES, which also
administers and distributes the federal Social Service Block Grant
funds, said the impact on clients from the loss of the aid wasn’t
immediately clear. That’s because many of the organizations receiving
federal funds also receive money from other sources, she said.

Other money might plug the gap, but the loss of federal funds will strain the organizations that serve the poor and vulnerable.

Phoenix-based Sojourner Center, which provides shelter for women in
domestic-violence cases, learned Thursday that it won’t be getting grant
funding until the shutdown is resolved
, said Dick Geasland, associate
director of the center. Each month, the center takes in about $150,000
in federal funds from two sources, he said.

“We’re just beginning
to talk about the potential impact,” he said. “We do have some reserves
(available in an emergency), but they’re not for services the
government is supposed to pay for.”

The center provides 144 beds
for women in Phoenix and helps women into transitional housing, he said.
Because some of the women in the center receive welfare aid, they will
be affected by the cutoff of those funds, too, if the shutdown
continues, he said.

“We have a significant number of women who have come through our program who will be affected,” he said.

It gives a whole new meaning to "women and children first," doesn't it?

UPDATE: Federal food aid for low-income Americans could dwindle if the government shutdown drags into the next month–leaving the states in charge of deciding to cut off benefits altogether or to dig into local coffers to feed the needy. Food aid in jeopardy as shutdown drags on. The USDA has said it will fund the federal Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP)–which helps feed about 45 million Americans a
year, most of whom are children or elderly–through the end of October.

One response to “Oh, SNAP! Farm bill expires; WIC and welfare programs threatened by government shutdown

  1. So…I can get discounted milk if this continues? What sort of milk are we talking about, here? I mean, a dollar less per bottle of milk doesn’t seem like very cheap milk, still. Drinkable milk in AZ, right now costs $4.50 per half-gallon, plus the $1.50 bottle deposit, unless you are returning a clean bottle at the time, then you just pay for the milk. Will it now cost $3.50 per half-gallon? I have seen cheaper milks for like $5 or so per 3/4 gallon. Would those ones go up $.40 or so? I am not understanding what the price of milk has to do, here.