Jefferson County Commissioners discussed making contingency plans for a continued federal government shutdown at their business meeting Jan. 7.
The shutdown began Dec. 22 and has limited services at the Olympic National Park among other government agencies.
Beulah Kingsolver, executive director of Dove House Advocacy Services, which provides assistance for families escaping domestic violence, voiced concern that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds might expire.
“Our federal government is shut down,” Kingsolver said. “What that means for members of Jefferson County is that we’re about to lose our food stamps. Some of the women that we serve within days we’ve already had some food stamp cards denied.”
According to a statement released from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Dec. 28, eligible households will still receive monthly SNAP benefits for January, while other domestic nutrition programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations “can continue to operate at the state and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available.”
“Additional federal funds will not be provided during the period of the lapse,” the USDA news release stated. “However, deliveries of already-purchased commodities will continue.”
The Child Nutrition Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk, will continue operations into February.
“Hundreds of women and children, men, working families are going to be without food very shortly in our county,” Kingsolver said during the public comment period of the county commissioners meeting Jan. 7. “If our government continues to not function at the highest level, are you willing, as county commissioners, to step forward and do something?”
Kingsolver asked the county to be prepared to step up and use funds collected from document recording fees that have been set aside for the city and county’s interlocal agreement on housing and homelessness to help those struggling to buy food during the government shutdown.
Olympic Community Action Programs Executive Director Dale Wilson said OlyCAP has not heard specifically from clients that they were experiencing issues.
“The longer the shutdown drags on, the greater the likelihood that some of the resources we deliver will become disrupted or discontinued,” Wilson said. “As of today, OlyCAP is not hearing from our customers that resources they are accessing outside of OlyCAP are being disrupted, but that does not mean there are no disruptions, but rather, we are just not hearing about them.” Wilson said OlyCAP is most concerned about USDA nutrition services and housing resources.
“After a cursory look, the food stamp or SNAP program is funded through the end of January,” county administrator Philip Morley said. “At some point, it runs out in February if the shutdown continues and if there are not additional dollars allocated through the federal government through Congress. It is something we will need to watch carefully.”
Commission Chair Kate Dean said she is planning to compile a list of impacts the government shutdown might have on the county.
“It’s important that we get it out loud and clear to our federal delegation that this is not okay, that the impacts are real and affect the most vulnerable,” Dean said.