Lasting Impacts from the Government Shutdown

Last Friday, the longest government shutdown in US history finally came to an end. But there are still some lasting impacts for the DMARC Food Pantry Network.

As a result of the shutdown, the USDA directed states to send out February’s SNAP benefits early, no later than January 20. In Iowa, February’s SNAP benefits were distributed on January 17.

DMARC will likely see less food pantry use at the end of January, as SNAP participants have benefits to spend on groceries. However, as we move later in to February, we expect more people will turn to the DMARC Food Pantry Network as their benefits run out.

The month of February is historically our lowest month of food pantry use. We believe this is in large part due to lower-income households receiving their tax returns in February and having extra money to spend on groceries. If the processing of tax returns is delayed, this too could impact the number of people who turn to a food pantry in February.

Want to help? Please encourage your business, congregation, civic group, etc. to hold a fund or food drive for DMARC – you can even designate your donation or drive toward our “Shutdown Response Fund.”

The recent government shutdown underscores the necessity of federal nutrition programs like SNAP. According to Bread for the World, federal nutrition programs deliver more than 19 times the amount of food assistance than private charitable sources. So what exactly would it mean for DMARC if SNAP benefits ever were reduced significantly or did not go out at all?

According to the latest state data, in December 2018 there were 63,103 Polk County Residents receiving a total of $7.1 million in SNAP benefits (see above diagram). Only around 9,000 of those people also used a DMARC food pantry in the month of December.

Let’s put that into perspective: the amount of money distributed in SNAP benefits for a single month in Polk County, Iowa, is over 2.5 times the amount of DMARC’s entire Food Pantry Network budget for FY17-18. The simple fact is the charitable sector would not be able to fill this gap.

Thankfully, SNAP recipients can rest assured that they will receive benefits in March and April due to the continuing resolution that re-opened the government on Friday. Beyond then, these politically turbulent times still offer plenty of uncertainty.

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