Shutdown could disrupt Tenn. SNAP, WIC benefits

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) --- The partial government shutdown could affect Tennesseans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Tennessee Department of Human Services websites states, "SNAP provides nutritional assistance benefits to children and families, the elderly, the disabled, unemployed and working families. SNAP helps supplement monthly food budgets of families with low-income to buy the food they need to maintain good health and allow them to direct more of their available income toward essential living expenses. These benefits are loaded onto an EBT card each month that can be used to buy food."

Tennessee has enough funding to cover the program through the end of January, according to Tennessee Department of Human Services Press Secretary Sky Arnold.

"We are continuing to work with our Federal partners during the shutdown. We believe all DHS administered programs, including SNAP, will have sufficient funding to continue normally through the month of January. No determination has been made beyond then," Arnold told WVLT News.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the federal arm that oversees SNAP and is also one of the agencies unfunded during the partial government shutdown.

According to CBS News, SNAP does not have funding allocated by Congress beyond January. An emergency fund of $3 billion designated for SNAP would not cover all of February's obligations, the news outlet reported.

According to the Tennessee Department of Human Services, at last count, 922,581 people in Tennessee received SNAP benefits. In October of 2018, more than 48-thousand people received SNAP benefits in Knox County.

Other programs stand to suffer more than SNAP. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is not receiving any funding from the federal government during the partial shutdown, but "can continue to operate at the State and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available," according to the USDA.

Tennessee Department of Health Spokeswoman Elizabeth Hart said, "The Tennessee WIC program continues to operate normally and, at this time, has the means to do so through the end of this month."

According to the Tennessee Department of Health website, "The WIC program provides milk, cheese, eggs, juice, peanut butter, iron-fortified cereals, and infant formula to participants. Each WIC participant also receives nutrition education and counseling to learn how to use the food as part of a good daily diet and to improve their long-term health.

With national funding of $4 billion, WIC serves 7 million participants nationwide through 85 state agencies. In Tennessee, the WIC program serves 155,000 people through a $101 million grant administered by the Department of Health. An additional $34 million comes from an infant formula rebate contract with the Nestlé Company."