The Shutdown Show: How Sending Out Food Stamp Benefits Early Could Cause Another Problem in a Few Weeks

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

As I’ve written before, the government shutdown is a perfect demonstration of our politicians participating in partisan showmanship, with poor people as the victims of their theater. As individual states desperately attempt to take care of the people depending on them by sending out food stamp benefits early, the theater in Washington DC continues, completely unconcerned about the havoc being wrought.

Regardless of your thoughts about people who are on government assistance, it’s incontrovertible that people are seeing the rug yanked out from under their feet quite suddenly. Here are some numbers:

That’s a whole lot of Americans who are dealing bigtime stress right now.

Food stamp benefits are going out early.

A number of states are issuing food stamp benefits early due to the government shutdown. They’re doing this over concern that if the shutdown continues, they won’t be able to issue the payments in February.

But the early payment comes with a sobering warning. A press relief from the state of Michigan said:

For food assistance clients, Michigan will begin issuing February benefits on Saturday, Jan. 19. Clients who don’t receive their benefits on that date should receive the funds the following week. That means the 1.2 million Michigan residents who receive food assistance will have benefits to feed their families in February even if the partial federal government shutdown continues.

The early food assistance benefits are not additional benefits and there will be no food assistance payments in February. MDHHS strongly encourages families to budget the funds they receive in January so they can meet their food needs through the entire month of February. (source)

Another warning, more bluntly worded, came from an official in Pennsylvania.

Carmen Rodriguez, a Camden County Freeholder and Liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services, has a warning for anyone who uses the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. She says don’t blow through the money.

“It is very important for people to understand that this is an early payment. You are not going to get more money later,” Rodriguez said. “This is you getting your February allotment for Food Stamps today.” (source)

So, to be perfectly clear, many people who receive food assistance are getting an early payment that must see them through until March, at which time officials hope the shutdown will have ended and things will go back to normal. That’s a 6-week time period that people will need to cover with a payment that really isn’t that big. (If you’re curious how much money people are getting on food benefits, I found this calculator. )

Read this article for tips on buying food to get you through an extended period of tough times.

School lunch programs are also being hard hit

About the saddest thing I’ve seen so far regarding the shutdown is the fact that school lunch programs are now rationing out food to the kids. This is a big problem for some children whose only meal of the day comes from the school cafeteria. 29.7 million children eat meals that are funded by the National School Lunch Program, which is funded by the USDA.

Add to this the fact that even more kids now qualify for free lunches because their parents are furloughed from government jobs.

A school district in North Carolina took to Facebook to announce that their lunch program was now conserving food through “minimum levels.”

Due to the Federal Government Shutdown, lunch menus in Vance County Schools have been revised to a minimum level to conserve food and funding.

Starting the week of January 21, minimum level means: one main dish, bread, two vegetables, one fruit and milk.
No fresh produce will be included, except at elementary schools as part of the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program. This program will be decreased to two days each week. (source)

My hope is that if this continues, the schools will set up some kind of way to accept food donations for hungry kids. I know that nobody wants to see children going without at least one balanced meal per day.

What to do if you’re affected

If you are affected by the government shutdown in some way, you’re going to need to make some changes to get through this situation. With the folks in Washington playing an elaborate game of Chicken, there’s no telling how long this sh*tshow will continue.

This article provides detailed information on how to feed your family during difficult times. So if you’re without a paycheck or trying to make your benefits stretch, the advice there may help you a lot. In situations like this, remember that nothing is guaranteed – you have to make anything you buy stretch as far as possible.

There are also instructions in the article on how to get my PDF, The Flat Broke Cookbook: Thrifty Meals & Shopping Tips for Tough Times, for FREE (no questions asked) if you’ve found yourself in a bad situation.

You’re going to have to tighten up your budget, change your eating habits, and be creative to get through this. And hopefully, once it’s over, you’ll have gained some new tools to help you get better prepared for a similar situation in the future. Because regardless of how much the folks in DC say they’re there to help you, they are only there to help themselves. This will happen again and one day, eventually, the benefits and government jobs simply won’t be coming back.

Keep in mind that if this shutdown continues, there will be a trickledown effect. Businesses in Washington, DC are already seeing their revenue drop because no one has the money to eat out or shop. State and county jobs that are federally funded will soon be affected. This is not going to stop with only the people who are federal government employees or who are on welfare.

If you’re in a position to help your neighbors, now would be a great time to do so.

Are you affected by the shutdown?

Share your stories in the comments below. And go check out this article that includes a free offer to help you get through this tough time.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • You say, “the theater in Washington DC continues” and “the folks in Washington playing an elaborate game of Chicken.” This episode is about determining whether or not Congress will fund a wall on our southern border, which was one of Mr. Trump’s key campaign promises. It’s not theater or grandstanding or a game.
    The Democrats were very intelligent to hook millions of US citizens and immigrants living in the US (legally and illegally) on government-provided food via SNAP, school lunch programs, and other programs. Hooking the populace on free food is far more effective than hooking them on free drugs or free liquor. Mr. Trump will probably have no choice but to cave, signalling a surrender of our national boundaries, which will please the globalists.
    The federal government should never have gotten into the business of providing free food, but the “bread and circuses” strategy worked to keep the Roman emperors in power, and it works to keep the Democrats in power.

    • Maggie, you forgot that this “episode” is about a mere 215 miles of wall that costs far more than similar walls around the world have cost. That’s the government for ya! If it were about a whole wall it might be a different story. And it IS grandstanding when politicians shut down the government because they refuse to find a reasonable compromise that both sides can accept.

      Your bread and circuses comment entirely misses the point of more than 800,000 federal workers–most of whom do not even qualify for SNAP benefits–going without their pay for over a month.

      The Democrats are in power because people are unhappy with the Republicans. And the pendulum will swing back the other way again. As long as those two parties run politics in America the circus will continue. Blame both sides. They both deserve it.

  • Thanks for the information. My mom receives Food stamps and lives in a fixed income community. I let her know and she was going to pass the information on to the other residents.

  • As for the US citizens who will not receive SNAP benefits, that is unfortunate.

    As for the people in this country illegally, who will not receive SNAP benefits, I have no sympathy. You can pack up and go home if you don’t like what is going on here in the US.

  • I truly feel sorry for the 20 million or so people who REALLY are poor/unemployed and need food stamps. By the Government Accounting Offices (GAO) own reports, 45-50% of recipients are scamming the system. Food stamps are sold for cash so the recipients can buy booze, junk food and gasoline or worse, drugs for mommy.

    Americans are very generous people but for now I feel the government needs to be out of the food business. Let private or faith-based organizations provide the assistance or have state funded school lunches for children.

    I was involved in church distributed food services and have seen first hand what “family” does to their parents and their children. I delivered $400 worth of meat, vegetables, fruits and basic supplies to elderly couples and returned in 3 days to check on them; only to find their adult children have taken off with all the food but peanut butter, bread, oatmeal and milk. The old grandparents were left with the grandchildren and barely enough food to eat for two days.

    I was a government employee at one time and was furloughed without pay 4 times. I had enough $$ put away to pay my rent and utilities and gas for the car. I had food stored for a rainy day. Child care was a problem but I worked it out. Some people are just not willing to budget, save or give up their $1200 I-phones.

  • SNAP( was / is) to be only part of a family’s food budget. If some of those who are on SNAP have not been budgeting all along, why assume they will start now? We know hurricanes come just about every year, but people still don’t prepare for them. Instead they sit and wring their hands when they hear there is one on the way.

  • If we taught people how to budget their benefits, technically they would have funds left over from their January benefits and would not have to use their February benefits until February. I know they don’t get a lot, however, due to circumstances, I am on a $50 a week food / household budget because of our finances, or lack of them and am making it work. God is good thought, because I do have a stockpile.

  • Those of you who work for “government” are very good at forcing strangers to pay you. Why stop now?
    Those of you who are able bodied and receive “government benefits” are parasites. If you can’t get family to help, you can do what parasites do and eat each other.
    The rest of you receiving “government benefits” can get with family. If you have no family, get with friends. If you have no friends, why?

    • Ed – this isn’t productive or helpful. It’s not what we do here. Your generalizations are ignorant. There are so many reasons that people run into difficulties, far too many to list here. Many people who use EBT work two and even three jobs. Others are elderly or disabled. And you may have also missed the number of children who aren’t getting fed right now.

      The universe has a way of humbling arrogant people who look down on others. Anyone can fall upon hard times, even you.

      • Exactly! the program is in place for americans by americans of all political affiliation. the total cost to american taxpayers is nothing in comparison the other corporate federal taxation. feed the families without political prejudice. the amount of cost to the usa taxpayers is minuscule compared to other federal spending.

  • My husband’s a government worker on furlough. We, fortunately, saw this coming and we did set aside money in savings. I work part-time from home and while any money I make isn’t going to be a substitute for my husband’s salary, it’s at least something. I asked for and received your cookbook and your ideas look very good.

    Financially, I’m not completely worried because I’m sure we’ll be OK. I’m more concerned because it just seems like people are getting angrier and angrier at each other, and I’m at the point where I don’t think it’s going to get any better.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

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