Leading antihunger groups in Massachusetts on Wednesday called for an end to the partial federal government shutdown and urged Governor Charlie Baker to prepare a “disaster plan” for a likely spike in emergency food requests if the stalemate grinds on past February.
“We commend the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance . . . for the steps it is taking to clearly communicate the impact of the shutdown on [federal] SNAP [benefits for low-income residents] under extremely difficult and uncertain conditions,” the release said.
The statement was put out by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Food Bank, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley Food Bank, and Project Bread.
“We call on the Governor to begin preparing a state ‘disaster plan’ to respond to an anticipated spike in demand for emergency food should this crisis continue past February,” the release said. “We further ask the Governor to ensure stability for households impacted by the shutdown by urging his colleagues in Congress and the President to end this shutdown. A fully-funded USDA is the only way to ensure a vibrant nutrition safety-net.”
Elissa Snook, a spokeswoman for the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said in a statement, “While food assistance or SNAP benefits are funded through February, the Baker-Polito Administration is making preparations to cope with the federal shutdown and the Administration urges Congress and the White House to reach a compromise and end the shutdown immediately.”
According to Baker’s office, his administration is in communication with the state’s federal delegation regarding the shutdown. The vast majority of SNAP clients will receive their February benefits on or before Jan. 20. SNAP rules and eligibility have not changed, according to that office.
The advocacy groups said SNAP benefits could be imperiled.
“We are deeply concerned that the shutdown is causing wide-spread fear and confusion across the Commonwealth, particularly for the nearly 770,000 residents who utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to put food on their table,” the release said. “That’s 1 in 9 Massachusetts residents.”
For now, there’s a contingency plan in place at the federal level, but even that’s causing problems, according to the release.
“Although USDA’s contingency plan ensures SNAP benefits will be paid for February, they are being issued early — creating stress and confusion in the day to day lives of millions of low income families,” the release said. “If the shutdown continues, it is not clear whether USDA will be able to continue issuing SNAP into March.”
Approximately 1 million government employees and contractors aren’t being paid nationwide.