Antoinette Martinez was relieved when she heard she would receive her food stamps for February about two weeks early. Her cabinet was nearly empty after the holidays, and now she could stock up on groceries to feed her family.
But Martinez also feared she wouldn’t be able to make the funds last. “I know I’m gonna spend them and I’m gonna be struggling next month,” 31-year-old Martinez said late Wednesday as she loaded her car with bags from a Food 4 Less market in Los Angeles.
The pain from the federal government’s partial shutdown is spreading in sometimes unexpected ways to millions of people who don’t work for the federal government.
The roughly 40 million people who depend on federal food assistance will get their February benefits early, because the government shutdown means the money will be unavailable later, state and federal officials said. All 50 states and the District of Columbia issued the benefits this week, or plan to do so by Sunday, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Normally, they would be distributed on or after Feb. 1.
It is unclear whether funding for the program will be available in March if the shutdown continues. The benefits for February cost the federal government approximately $4.8 billion.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, is administered through states and counties. In California, which operates the nation’s largest program, about 3.8 million people receive benefits. Nationwide, the average participant receives $125 per month.
The shutdown, caused by a disagreement between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration over the president’s demand for a wall at the Mexican border, is in its 28th day — the longest federal government shutdown in history.
The USDA informed states last week that if they wanted the nutrition dollars for February, they had to issue the benefits to participants by Jan. 20. The government told the states to make sure beneficiaries knew these…