Advocates: “Long Shut-Down = Epic Calamity for the Hungry & Grocers”

01.04.2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           

Leading G.O.P Senator:  Shut-Down Could Last “Months and Months”

Advocates: “Long Shut-Down = Epic Calamity for the Hungry & Grocers”

Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, yesterday told reporters that the federal government shut-down could last “months and months.”

In response, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide direct service and advocacy organization, issued the following statement:

“If the federal shut-down lasts a few more weeks or more, it would be an epic calamity for both hungry Americans and hundreds of thousands of small, mid-size, and large stores that sell groceries.

Just a week from today, on January 11, the hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by the shut-down are scheduled to be paid. The lowest paid federal employee – at the GS 3 pay level – have starting salaries of only $23,043; if a single parent with two children earns that salary, they are  eligible for SNAP (formerly called Food Stamp) benefits. Given that one in five Americans overall have either zero savings or have debt larger than their savings, it’s clear that low-income federal employees – and even some lower-middle income federal workers – could quickly run out of food if they are denied even one paycheck. So the first ‘hunger victims’ of the shut-down will likely be federal workers.

In a few more weeks, states will start running out of the federal carry-over money now being used to keep clinics open and benefits issued in the WIC program, which provides nutrition supplements to low-income pregnant women, infants, and children under the age of five. The WIC program is scheduled to provide an estimated 6.7 million pregnant women, children, and infants with $297 million worth of nutrition supplements in February alone, which would be redeemed at 46,000 retail establishments nationwide.

By improving the nutrition of pregnant women, the WIC program has saved at least half a million babies from dying at birth. I am astonished that most of the members of Congress who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are pushing to extend a government shutdown that could, eventually, result in children dying at birth because of inadequate nutrition.

The shut-down could also soon limit food distribution on American Indian Reservations, some of which are already the lowest-income, hungriest places in the U.S.

If the shut-down lasts into February, it could entirely halt the SNAP program, which is, by far, the largest source of food for low-income Americans. Approximately 38.6 million Americans are now slated to receive $4.7 billion in food benefits in February, which would be redeemed at 260,000 grocery stores around the nation, many of which are small, mom-and-pop stores. If SNAP payments are not made in February, not only would the U.S. suffer from the greatest wave of hunger since the Great Depression, countless stores selling groceries would go out of business or be forced to have mass lay-offs.

Eventually, even school lunch and school breakfast programs could be shuttered.

To make matters even worse, the shut-down could eventually reduce food distributed by nonprofit food charities, including many of the country’s more than 40,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and food banks. The federal government purchases a significant amount of these organizations’ food and helps pay to warehouse and transport that food. Thus, a long shut-down could reduce these charities’ food distribution significantly. Given that such private charities often help fill in the gaps for people for whom SNAP benefits are not sufficient, if people lacked both SNAP and charitable food, the result would be even more catastrophic.

On top of all that misery, there is strong evidence that the nation may soon enter a recession, greatly increasing the need for SNAP, WIC, school meals, and charitable food.

By both law and practice, Hunger Free America is studiously non-partisan; however, that does not prevent us from making the factual point that this shut-down was started by – and is being extended by – President Trump and Congressional Republicans. The bill passed yesterday by the Democratic House to re-open the government is identical to a bill previously supported by the President and Senate Republicans. To avoid the worst humanitarian and economic disaster in modern American history, Trump and McConnell must end the shut-down immediately.”

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CONTACT:

Nicole Aber, (646) 627-7741

Naber@hungerfreeamerica.org