Government shutdown puts FoodShare program in jeopardy

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- With the federal government shut down, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits, will stop being issued. If lawmakers can't pass a budget by October 17th, almost 86,000 people in Wisconsin will lose their food stamp benefits.

"We've never seen anything like this before. This would be making history," said Sherrie Tussler, Director of the Hunger Task Force. "We have never closed the food stamp program since its opened. We've never summarily cut people off of their benefits because we couldn't figure out how to run government."

In a statement released by Stephanie Marquis, Communications Director of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, she says:

"We are still working with the agencies to gather the cost estimates we may incur if we were required to fund essential federal programs out of our budget, and no decisions have been made, including for FoodShare."

Pending a continuation of the government shutdown, those in the program will have their benefits cut effective November 2nd. Those cuts repeat each day after that for 10 days.

"Let's pretend that it doesn't matter to you. What should matter to you is your economy because there's $178 million spent by FoodShare recipients in Wisconsin every single month," said Tussler. "This is 100% federal dollars, and the state isn't going to be able to load those cards with its own money."

As the cut off day nears, thousands of people are looking for answers. Tussler suggests calling elected officials to urge them to get the government up and running as soon as possible.

"We've got, basically, our whole food system tied up in this problem of government shutdown, and we need to untie it because the food system should not be placed at risk in the United States," added Tussler.

If the shutdown continues, the problem has a potential to grow to a point where there are no food stamps -- and the demand on food pantries becomes so great that they, too, could run out of food for those in need.