As the government shutdown enters its third week, millions of Americans face life-threatening hunger and hardship, with funding running out for food stamps, tax refunds/credits, WIC, school lunches, and Section 8 and other subsidized housing programs.
Many are already losing the benefit that allows them to purchase food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps, will run out of funds by February. More than 19 million American households – or 39 million people – depend on food stamps to survive.
But right now many grocery stores across the nation are reporting that “EBT” cards issued to SNAP recipients are not being accepted in their online systems – it seems the government has already shut them down.
The shutdown also means that no tax refunds will be made. Hard-working low-income tax-payers who benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credit and who depend on early filing to receive their refunds and credits have nowhere to turn.
“We join with our representatives in Congress – in the Senate and the House – who call for total restoration of government funding while differences are discussed separately,” said ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew. “If this shutdown continues, hunger in America will be back big-time. You will have millions of people unable to buy the food they need to survive. They also won’t have access to the hard-earned tax credits they count on to pay for rent, medicine, food and heat at this time of year. Landlords who can’t collect rent subsidies may evict them for market-rate renters.”
The average benefit for the 19 million households receiving SNAP is $245 per month. More than 68 percent of SNAP funds go to families with children; 44 percent go to working families. The SNAP program is used in 1.4 million households where veterans live. Without this benefit, children, seniors and the veterans who have selflessly protected our nation will go hungry.
With millions of people losing their consumer power without the benefits that enable them to buy food, the shutdown will have a major impact on groceries and small businesses that serve poor communities where shoppers rely on their SNAP benefits.
The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are not receiving any federal funds during the shutdown. Massachusetts has received funding through January for school lunches through the Child Nutrition Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After that there is no funding for school lunches.
The Department of Housing & Urban Development is basically unstaffed, with the vast majority of employees forced to stay home without pay. Dire situations involving low-income housing issues have been reported – with no help available. Low-income families make up 72 percent of HUD-assisted households – and more than half of those receiving vouchers are elderly or persons with disabilities. Funds for basic housing operations and housing vouchers are available through January – after that it is unclear what will happen. Low-income families and their landlords face loss of Section 8 housing subsidies, causing families to lose their housing and landlords to possibly evict them to get paying tenants to prevent falling into foreclosure.
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) is a nonprofit community action agency that provides low income residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support, and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, we serve more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For more than 50 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in each neighborhood we serve, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.