Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is warning that U.S. Department of Agriculture data highlights the possibility that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could run out of funds before the end of the fiscal year.

Merkley is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the department.

Merkley said “Even before the coronavirus hit, keeping food on the table and in kid’s lunchboxes was a daily struggle for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians and millions of Americans across the country”. Merkley said without more funding for SNAP, it is “…a very real risk that this lifeline will not be there for them by the time the fiscal year ends”.

Merkley said the department’s projected $2 billion surplus at the end of September assumes that SNAP participation is unchanged over the rest of the fiscal year. Merkley said that assumption “…is dangerously flawed”.

The release said from March to April this year alone, 6 million people became newly-eligible for SNAP. It said that participation number is expected to climb as the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis deepen. Merkley said because unemployment insurance has been cut in the middle of the crisis, still more Americans are going to have to turn to SNAP as their incomes fall. With the potential for a bad hurricane year, Merkley said that itself could add $2 billion to the SNAP bill. He said taken together, the factors point to a “…grave risk that SNAP will run out of funding before September 30th”.