While feeding programs are being funded during the government shutdown, some retailers are unable to acquire or renew their SNAP licenses, which they say hurts consumers and local economies.
This week Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue announced that the government will fully fund USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through February.
“Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ Purdue said. “With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well.”
According to the statement, “USDA has also ensured the other major nutrition assistance programs have sufficient funding to continue operations into February. The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs have funding available to continue operations through March.”
However, on Jan. 10, Peter Larkin, President and CEO of the National Grocers Association, sent a letter to Congress, telling them that the shutdown prevents many independent retailers from acquiring SNAP licenses for their newly opened stores, and that more than 2,500 retailers have experienced a lapse or inability to reauthorize their SNAP license.
“The inability to acquire new SNAP licenses for newly-opened or purchased stores could have significant negative impacts to local economies,” Larkin said.
“Business deals for new store openings may be delayed or even canceled, impacting local jobs, sales taxes, and local producers who supply these stores. Simply put, this shutdown is hurting Main Street grocers who are focused on growing their businesses and creating new jobs.”
Mollie Van Lieu, Senior Director, Nutrition Policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, said school meals have traditionally been protected during these budget issues, and it’s good to see they are funded.
“It was a relief that there’s guaranteed funding,” she said Jan. 10, “but it’s only until February or March.”
She said United Fresh will be talking about school meals at its winter meeting next week, and will talk with Congress members — if the situation isn’t resolved — at its government relations council meeting in early February.