Utah Department of Workforce Services public information officer Nic Dunn said that DWS is doing everything they can to mitigate this issue before it gets too far, but that they remain optimistic the issue in Washington will resolve itself before November even comes.
“We are acutely aware of how this may impact our families and customers,” Dunn said. “And we're doing everything we can to continue to serve Utahns in the most effective way.”
In a letter issued Friday by the USDA to SNAP state agencies nationwide, Food and Nutrition Services administrator Audrey Rowe said FNS was initiating their government contingency plan that was set in place at the beginning of October.
“…Understanding the operational issues and constraints that States face and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility,” Rowe said. “We are directing States to hold their November issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) Vendors until further notice.”
Dunn said that should this will not affect Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, because they come from separate funding sources.
“A lot of what we do is governed by federal law,” Dunn said. “They dictate where certain funding can or can’t go.
“There are certain funding streams that can’t be mixed, and that’s why it is different from program to program,” he added.
Dunn said the closure of the SNAP program would affect 97,000 Utah families who will have to turn elsewhere to find a way to feed their families.
Iron County Care and Share executive director Joy Jankowiak said she was not aware of the possible SNAP diversion for November, and she is concerned about the food pantries ability to help community members.
“If this goes into effect,” Jankowiak said. “Then we will want to be a resource for the families in need and do our best to be an asset”
On average she said ICCS serves anywhere from 650 to 700 clients a month, and a large chunk of their clients are often SNAP recipients already.
“SNAP is supposed to be supplemental,” Jankowiak said. “But in reality, it is usually the total amount to feed a family in a given month.”
Dunn said officials at DWS are hoping that the generosity that Utahns so often show to each other during extreme times of need will help to get residents through this tough time, if indeed the government remains shut down.
“We encourage Utahns to take extra time to donate to the Food Bank, local food pantries, or other groups to help,” Dunn said. “Lastly, we ask for generosity from those Utahns who can afford to lend a helping hand.”
Cedar City resident Jennie Orison said that her family plans to go “scaring for food” on Halloween, rather than trick or treating. She said that the idea is, instead of candy, the children will ask for a can or two of food to help ICCS.
“My kids just want help make a difference and they don’t want anyone to go hungry,” Orison said. “Food is more important than candy.”
La Verkin, Utah mother-of-four Jamie Dye said if there are no food stamps in the month of November she will be looking at a very desperate situation for her family.
Dye said she is unable to work, because she cares for her sister who has special needs full time, and has two special needs children that require her full time attention as well. She said that since they live on such a small monthly income, this would wipe out their family’s ability to eat at all next month.
“We live on $150 a week,” Dye said. “That is our income.
“I have no clue how we are supposed to get by if this happens,” she added.
Dunn said that DWS has been working with the Governor Herbert’s office on how to approach a SNAP shutdown in a way that will best serve Utah residents, and although he said he knows it is a tall order, he is asking the public to bear with them as we move forward.
“We are in active discussions with the governor's office about the impact should this occur,” he said. “We ask for patience as we do our best to work through this situation.”
Governor Herbert’s office was unavailable for comment as of 1:45 p.m. today.
KCSG will continue to update this story as more information comes in.