As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history enters its fifth week, the future of federal food assistance remains uncertain.
Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits received their full benefits for the month of February two weeks early. But those payments will have to last families until March, and it is currently unclear when their next payment will come.
"Because there is continuing uncertainty over how long they will be funded, most food stamp [recipients] got all their benefits last week for the month of February," Corby Kummer, serior food editor at The Atlantic, explained on Boston Public Radio Tuesday. "So they're going to have to carefully budget their whole food stamp allotment for the month of February."
"And no one knows about March," he continued. "March remains uncertain."
Additionally, families that have received their benefits via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), or an electronic plastic debit card, may have trouble using them. PBS reported that over 2,500 stores around the country are currently unable to accept EBT payments because they failed to meet a re-licensing deadline before the shutdown began.
"What's also happening is that stores that accept SNAP benefits with an EBT... [are] the stores may not have re-qualified to be able to accept the EBT electronic plastic cards, and they can't re-qualify because of the shutdown," Kummer said.