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En español | Millions of low-income Americans will continue receiving government assistance to buy the food they need at least through February, despite the partial federal government shutdown, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest federal nutrition program, helps 43 million Americans, including 8.7 million households with someone age 50 or older. The average household receives about $250 in SNAP assistance, formerly known as food stamps, each month to help purchase groceries.
Even though the USDA is one of the agencies affected by the shutdown, SNAP payments for February will be made due to a provision in the expired spending bill that allows the USDA to continue to fund some of its programs for 30 days beyond when the department had to shut down. To comply with that rule, the department is working with each state to load February SNAP benefits onto recipients’ cards by Jan. 20 rather than the beginning of February, when they would normally be available.
During the shutdown, no additional funding will go to the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Assistance Program, which provides monthly food boxes to about 630,000 low-income individuals age 60 and older. Robert Campbell, policy director of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief network, says food supplies already stocked in state-administered food banks and pantries are adequate to supply current recipients through March. Food packages contain approximately $50 worth of items such as shelf-stable milk, oats, cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meats and canned fruits and vegetables, which help fill nutritional gaps for poor older adults.