WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today decried the potential loss or delay of food assistance for millions of Americans if the government shuts down next week, and called on Republicans to work responsibly with Democrats to avoid an unnecessary, politically-driven shutdown disaster.
“On a week when the Pope is making an historic visit to Washington to remind us all of our moral obligation to care for the poorest and most vulnerable among us, it is shameful that we are even contemplating a politically-driven shutdown that would take food off the tables of millions of children, seniors, and disabled Americans,” said Merkley. “It’s time for our colleagues across the aisle to finally get to work and make sure millions of Americans don’t go hungry.”
“We are eight days away from a government shutdown, and Republican leaders are wasting time on divisive political grandstanding,” Stabenow said. “This brinksmanship has real consequences. It’s time for Republicans to join us in a bipartisan, balanced approach that keeps our government open and keeps food on the table for American seniors, families, and people with disabilities.”
During the 2013 shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), was able to use contingency funds and authority remaining from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to keep food assistance available to families throughout the shutdown. That authority has now expired, and if the federal government shuts down again in eight days, USDA will not have sufficient contingency funds to cover the total cost of food assistance for October.
Administration officials continue exploring options around the legal and technical roadblocks a shutdown would pose in order to reduce the impact on the families relying on SNAP.
The SNAP program helps 45 million low-income Americans each month provide food for themselves and their families. According to USDA, over 60 percent of SNAP participants were children (44%), the elderly (9%), and disabled (10%). The program pumps billions of dollars each month into the American economy, and is the primary federal program to directly relieve hunger among the most vulnerable families in America.