CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 148,562 West Virginia households receiving food stamps will continue to receive them for now.
But that could stop if the federal shutdown continues into next month.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the current version of food stamps, is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
SNAP is meant to offer nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families.
During the ongoing shutdown, the office that administers SNAP has sent home 95 percent of its employees without pay, according to a flowchart on the department’s website.
The Department of Agriculture has specified that money is available for SNAP benefits through January.
In West Virginia, the program is administered through DHHR.
“During the partial federal government shutdown, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, will continue normal operations and eligible households will receive monthly benefits for January,” agency spokeswoman Alison Adler stated last week.
The partial federal shutdown is into its third week, with President Trump and congressional Democrats unable to agree on funding for a border wall.
Late last week, the president acknowledged telling negotiators that the shutdown could continue for months or even years.
That dispute has led to continued lack of funding for agencies such as the Department of Agriculture.
“We are currently looking at options for SNAP,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, told The Washington Post.
“The best course of action would be for Congress to pass a legitimate appropriations bill to the president to end the lapse in funding.”
Other federal food programs are beginning to be affected, too.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is not receiving federal funds at all during the shutdown.
But WIC “can continue to operate at the state and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available,” according to the USDA.
Child Nutrition Programs, including school lunch and school breakfast, will continue operations through February, according to the USDA.
“The short answer is there is no need to panic,” stated Kristin Anderson, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Education.
“West Virginia has funding to cover reimbursable claims through March for all child nutrition programs that we administer. There is not any immediate disruption or delay in providing school meals to students.”
A report issued last week by WalletHub had West Virginia ranked as the state seventh most affected by the federal shutdown.
The report showed West Virginia seventh in share of federal jobs, 13th in access to national parks and sixth in percent of families receiving SNAP.
“I have always said we should never shut down the government, and governing this way is embarrassing for both Democrats and Republicans,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin stated last week.