The Government Shutdown Could Put Millions of People's Food Stamps at Risk

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It’s getting more difficult to imagine an end to the ongoing partial government shutdown that began on December 22nd after a presidential tantrum over funding for the mystical border wall. So far, the most worrying results of the shutdown have included long lines at the TSA and overflowing garbage. But as January progresses, more serious problems could rapidly emerge. The shutdown has a human toll, and not just for government workers.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), colloquially known as food stamps, which provides nutritional assistance to 42 million families and individuals, is currently surviving on a $3 billion emergency fund from Congress. That money should last through the end of this month and into February. But within weeks, the fund will dry up, leaving millions of families in danger of having their food stamps disrupted, according to CBS.

Other social programs are even more immediately in jeopardy. Both the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are receiving no funding during the shutdown. According to the USDA, they “can continue to operate at the State and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available.” Staffing at SNAP, WIC, and the Child Nutrition Programs has been cut by 95 percent.


Even before the shutdown, President Trump wasn’t a supporter of the SNAP program, which he often framed as a way for lazy people to get by without working (though more than 44 percent of families using SNAP are working). To that end, his administration instituted work requirements for SNAP recipients, which, according to new data, only succeeded in preventing those in need from taking advantage of the program.

This Friday, Trump said that he would be willing to keep the shutdown going for “years” if necessary to get the funding for his precious border wall. That seems far-fetched, but even if the shutdown lasts a just a few more weeks, millions of people—including the 68 percent of SNAP recipients who have children—will almost certainly go hungry.