As we continue the New Year, the partial government shutdown is about to enter its third week. Northern Illinois Food Bank would like to assure our community that we are and will continue to serve our neighbors. As a reminder, we are not run by the government, but we do have several programs that receive government funding.
During a government shutdown, there are a number of individuals and programs that can be affected that can impact the work we do as a hunger relief network. The following outlines the impact and how it could affect the Food Bank’s work. We will continue to closely monitor the shutdown and provide additional insight when available and possible.
It is possible, as the shutdown continues, our network could see an increase of individuals and families accessing our programs as their income is disrupted. 800,000 employees of the government have been impacted by the shutdown. By law, most federal employees' pay would immediately stop during a shutdown. There are exceptions for some federal employees who would remain on the job and receive their paychecks, typically either because their work is deemed critical (e.g. national security related) or because the source of their pay does not come through the federal appropriations process (e.g. postal employees whose pay comes from postal fees).As our mission is to ensure no one in Northern Illinois is hungry, in the event that new clients visit your food pantry or program during this time, it may be, in part, be due to the fact that they are impacted by the shutdown.
SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded through the end of January 2019, but if the shutdown continues past a few weeks, there is a possibility that families could experience disruptions in their benefits.
- The current Continuing Resolution (CR) includes a provision ensuring that mandatory payments are covered if they are due within 30 days of its expiration (December 20, 2018). Current December 2018 benefits are unaffected and January 2019 benefits will be provided without interruption. A shutdown that lasts longer than a few weeks, could impact February and future benefits. While there is a $3 billion benefit reserve from fiscal year 2018, monthly SNAP benefits are approximately $5 billion. By mid-January, the Agriculture Secretary will advise states how to reduce SNAP benefits proportionally for February to stay under $3 billion. Other potential actions could include de-authorizing EBT retailers, which would prohibit benefits from being redeemed. If this occurs, SNAP recipients would not be able to use any leftover benefits from prior months in addition to not receiving additional months’ benefits.
- Northern Illinois Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach Team is available to assist any families who experience issues with their benefits and our network will be here to help fill any gaps created due to the shutdown. Our SNAP Outreach Team can be reach at 844-600-SNAP (7627) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal Commodities (TEFAP & CSFP): Though the Farm Bill was signed a day before the beginning of the government shutdown, outlining the funding of agricultural and nutrition programs, during a government shutdown, TEFAP and CSFP would receive no new funds, including administrative funds.
- Currently, the USDA, which administers federal nutrition programs including TEFAP and CSFP, has had 95% of their staff furloughed. With the lack of staff and funding due to the shutdown, there is the possibility of TEFAP orders being disrupted or delayed as the shutdown continues. Existing inventories can still be used, and funding is typically reimbursed retroactively. Typically, for TEFAP orders placed before a shutdown begins, food banks can still expect the food to be delivered as scheduled. The same is true for the administration’s trade mitigation food purchases. However, if the shutdown continues past two weeks, food banks might see a delay in TEFAP orders since the USDA cannot place the orders until the government reopens.
- Northern Illinois Food Bank had placed a number of orders prior to the shutdown and had received food deliveries from trade mitigation and standard TEFAP ordering lined up through February. We are confident that we would not face any issues caused from the impact on the Federal Commodities for a few months if the government shutdown were to continue on that long.
Child and Senior Nutrition Programs: School meal programs, after-school programs, and senior programs (ie: Meals on Wheels), should be able to continue full operations during a short shutdown, due to their reimbursement model.
- Structured as a reimbursement model, providers are reimbursed 30 days after the end of the service month. This typically results in school districts and providers serving meals as planned. For a short-term shutdown, these programs should be able to continue proving meals, but they could see challenges in a longer shutdown. They could possibly see a delay in reimbursement processing which creates a challenge for cash-flow purposes for the Food Bank.
Northern Illinois Food Bank will be keeping a close eye on the developments surrounding the shutdown. We hope to see a resolution soon so there is no need for any concerns raised by the impact of a long-term shutdown. Regardless of the government shutdown, the Food Bank will work alongside our community partners to solve hunger.