Feds Allay Fears Over Shutdown's Effect on Food Programs

Jan 11, 2019  | 3 min  | Ep4421

As the shutdown ran into record duration, portions of the government remained open. USDA also will continue to spend $4.8 billion per month to assist 39 million children, elderly and disabled Americans dependent on nutritional support.

Colleen Bradford Krantz has our more. Producer contact:colleen.krantz@iptv.org

State public health workers across the nation spent the past week reassuring those who receive food via federal assistance that the USDA’s nutrition programs are up and running despite the partial shutdown of U.S. governmental services.

Bruce Brown, Iowa WIC, Program Planner: “So far, the only affect that I’ve seen is concern and worry. We get calls here and at our local agencies from participants wanting more information about what they’ve seen, wanting to know if WIC is open. We are spending a lot of time communicating that we are up and open for business as usual.”

According to a USDA press release, the administration found the funds to continue supporting state-administered nutrition programs, such as SNAP – the food program for low-income families - and WIC – or Women, Infants and Children - at least through February if the shutdown were to continue until then as the White House and Congress struggle to agree on a budget.

In Iowa alone, WIC provides food, breastfeeding support and other services every month to 59,000 pregnant women, babies and children under age 5 who don’t have adequate food. By Wednesday morning, the federal government had sent the Iowa office and other state’s offices their shares of the newly pinpointed funds to ensure continuation of services through February. And because Iowa has also kept a healthy reserve fund, it could continue to operate WIC at least through March 7.

Kimberly Stanek, IDPH State WIC Director: “If the shutdown continued to go for a longer period of time, eventually we would not be able to provide all the services we provide now.”

One official said the three-week shutdown will eventually either be viewed as a minor inconvenience or a severe problem depending on how much longer it lasts.

Bruce Brown, Iowa WIC, Program Planner: “If the budget is passed tomorrow, I think we would look back at this as just an inconvenience and perhaps some unnecessary stress on our participants and vendors and our staff.”

Also this week, the USDA extended the deadline for farmers who had still hoped to apply for the federal government’s compensation for those affected by recent trade disputes and retaliatory tariffs. The deadline will be extended from Jan. 15 by as many days as local USDA offices are closed due to the shutdown.

Sen. Charles Grassley: “Some maybe have already applied and got their money so I don’t know how many are being affected… When soybeans are below the cost of production, it’s very important that they get it and it’s the direct result of government action that China has put tariffs on our product.”

By Colleen Bradford Krantz, colleen.krantz@iptv.org

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