It’s been said that nobody cares about the news until it becomes personal, but it has become personal for thousands in the Twin County area who depend on food stamps amid a crushing federal government shutdown that shows no sign of ending any time soon.
Greene and Columbia county officials said Wednesday that the benefits, known collectively as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are funded through February, which is good news unless the shutdown drags on into March.
The effects of the shutdown, which is in its 21st day, include delayed mortgage applications, public companies unable to get approval to raise capital and thousands of Secret Service agents who are showing up for work without pay.
It has affected about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will miss their first paycheck this week, and who owe a combined $249 million in monthly mortgage payments, according to online real estate firm Zillow.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced late Tuesday that his department will provide states with funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through February to stave off effects of the shutdown.
The Greene County Department of Social Services has 2,086 SNAP cases and 4,415 individuals receiving the assistance. “The situation is changing pretty rapidly,” Greene County Social Services Commissioner Kira Pospesel said Wednesday. “We are good until at least the end of February. We will see if anything happens until then.”
Columbia County Department of Social Services Commissioner Robert Gibson sounded a somewhat grimmer note when he was asked about the impasse Wednesday.
“The shutdown puts these benefits at risk — it puts them at great risk,” Gibson said. “We have a plan that will take us through February, but I am concerned. I have been hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and the issues that caused this shutdown will be resolved so we can keep these programs open.”
Columbia County manages 3,229 total SNAP cases, which reflects 5,316 individuals.
We want to think someone in Congress or the White House will be struck by a lightning bolt of common sense, see how the shutdown is on the verge of dealing a crushing blow to critical rural programs like SNAP in the Twin Counties and convince the two sides to compromise and reopen the government.
But President Donald Trump and congressional leaders Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are digging in even deeper while a calamity approaches. Meanwhile, Pospesel and Gibson can only watch, wait and hold their breath as funding winds down. It’s a sad, disturbing situation, but this is reality in the era of divided government.