WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) joined 128 House Democrats in a letter led by U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue demanding specifics on how the Department will address impending benefit reductions for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caused by President Trump’s government shutdown. Without additional funding, Secretary Purdue is required by law to instruct SNAP state agencies on how to ration available funding among SNAP recipients. SNAP helps feed more than 38 million of our nation’s most vulnerable people, including millions of children, low-income military veterans, and seniors. Yet, inadequate funding could lead to severe, immediate benefit cuts for the month of February and beyond.
“President Trump continues to hold our government hostage over an ineffective and expensive wall and his irresponsible and incompetent actions are causing uncertainty and stress for hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans. Last week, he said that he would be happy to keep the government shut down for “years.” Millions of hungry children, veterans, and seniors cannot go days — let alone years — without receiving the assistance they desperately need. In Illinois, 2,042,306 people will lose SNAP benefits if the Trump Shutdown continues. It is completely immoral that this President would hold SNAP, our nation’s leading anti-hunger program, hostage. He must come to his senses and re-open government immediately,” said Rush.
Below is the full text of the letter:
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We write seeking information about the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plans to address the current government shutdown’s negative impact on food and nutrition assistance for millions of working Americans and their families.
Our nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger safety net, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will be severely impacted by a continued lapse in government funding. Currently, SNAP serves more than 38 million of our most vulnerable people, including millions of children, low-income military veterans, and seniors.
Under USDA’s present interpretation of the authorizing statute, SNAP must receive an annual appropriation from Congress in order to meet the needs of the program’s recipients. Such funding for SNAP benefits has not been allocated beyond the end of this month. Because of this, a continuation of the government shutdown would cripple the program and prevent millions of people from accessing basic food assistance.
While Congress provided $3 billion worth of reserve funding for SNAP in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, estimations based on program participation suggest this amount would fail to provide all recipients with full benefits even for the month of February. In this scenario, where federal funds are unable to cover full benefit costs, the law requires USDA to instruct SNAP state agencies on how to ration available funding among SNAP recipients. To date, it remains unclear how such benefit reductions will be carried out.
The government shutdown has also restricted the way USDA administers the program. According to the Department’s website, 95% of staff within the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) have been furloughed. Among other responsibilities, FNS is tasked with approving applications from retailers seeking authorization to accept SNAP payments. Several media reports indicate that FNS is not processing retailer applications nor providing technical assistance to store owners. This ever-worsening problem is exacerbating hunger in many rural and other disadvantaged areas.
Given the drastic impact this current situation will have on hunger in America, we ask for an immediate response to the following questions:
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.