steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*It is day fifteen of the government shutdown. The federal food stamp program in nearly a dozen states mysteriously became inoperative over the weekend due to “technical issue.”

Every store that accepts food stamps had a sign on the door that stated food stamps transactions no longer are accepted until further notice. Businesses can’t risk taking government IOU credit vouchers without knowing when payments will be made.

The lines of people at Family Dollar and at the grocery store where I shop have been much shorter the last few days. Shopping carts full of non essential carbonated drinks, sugary processed foods and cigarettes have dwindled down to the bare minimum eggs, mik and meat. You know, stuff people are willing to purchase with their own cash in anticipation of how the government shutdown might affect their benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than 47 million people are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as of January 2013. So potentially that’s 47 million people carrying debit cards (the government quit sending paper food stamps years ago and started loading food stamp funds onto debit cards) that won’t have recurrent funds added to it until congress decides to agree on a budget or the “technical issue” is worked out.

It’s ironic that just last month congress debated whether to cut $40 billion from the farm bill that funds SNAP. Now in the wake of the government shutdown benefits have been cut off. When it comes to government spending the SNAP program – right or wrong – has a reputation for being one of the most abused. Most people in congress could care less about the millions of people who might go without eating, because they can’t relate to anyone in that position.

But there is another side of story that soon might come to the attention of congress. Retail stores that are approved food stamp vendors and companies which process the food mostly sold via the food stamp program are going to start feeling the money pinch too. Those business owners are more likely to be people that congress cares about because of their money and power.Then we’ll see how long it takes for the people on Capitol Hill to negotiate.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. For comments, questions or speaking inquiries contact her at teamtcb.tcb@gmail.com