(NEXSTAR) — As Congress continues to try to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the week, it’s hard for many Americans to not worry about the impact it could have on their federal benefits.
In many cases, those benefits will not be impacted if the government does, in fact, shut down. That includes Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and many benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But what about food stamps and other food assistance programs?
Unfortunately, they won’t all be as lucky.
On Monday, the White House warned a government shutdown would “jeopardize” federal food assistance for nearly 7 million mothers and young children who rely on WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
The program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serves low-income pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, postpartum women, infants, and children up to the age of 5. It receives funding on an annual basis, putting it at risk during current shutdown talks.
Should there be a government shutdown, the White House says “women and children who count on WIC would soon start being turned away at grocery store counters, with a federal contingency fund drying up after just a few days and many states left with limited WIC funds to operate the program.”
It could be especially impactful in states like California and Texas, where a combined 1.759 million WIC recipients live, White House data shows.
During a Monday press conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said WIC “expires … or stops immediately” in the event of a shutdown. The department does have a contingency plan that could provide funds for a day or two, ABC News reports. Vilsack also noted that some states may have access to additional funding, which could keep their programs running for slightly longer.
The National WIC Association urged Congress to “reach a deal that avoids a shutdown and provides WIC with the funding it needs to support any individual or family who qualifies” in a Friday press release.
“Without the urgent investment of additional funds, state WIC offices could soon be forced to consider waiting lists for prospective participants — a drastic step not seen in nearly 30 years. We simply cannot cross that line,” Kate Franken, board chair of the National WIC Association said. Over 600 organizations from across the country joined the NWA in calling on Congress to fully fund the program in a letter Monday.
While WIC could be shuttered during a government shutdown, SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — would still be available, at least for a short time.
SNAP, which offers food assistance to low-income families nationwide, also receives funding annually from the federal government. It’s set to see benefits boost on Oct. 1 (as well as eligibility requirements change) and would last at least through the month, according to Vilsack.
But, if there is a government shutdown, and it lasts beyond October, “there would be some serious consequences to SNAP,” he noted.
Food banks and Meals on Wheels programs could also see disruptions to orders, deliveries, and more during a government shutdown, CNN reports.
What’s the latest on the government shutdown talks?
Congress is rushing headlong into crisis mode Tuesday with a government shutdown days away, as Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces an insurgency from hard-right Republicans eager to slash spending even if it means halting pay for the military and curtailing federal services for millions of Americans.
There’s no clear path ahead as lawmakers return with tensions high and options limited. The House is expected to launch an evening vote on a package of bills to fund parts of the government, but it’s not at all clear that McCarthy has the support needed as holdouts demand steeper spending cuts.
But with just five days to go before Saturday’s deadline, the Senate is trying to stave off a federal closure as the hard-right flank seizes control of the House. Senators unveiled a bipartisan stopgap measure to keep offices funded temporarily, through Nov. 17, to buy time for Congress to finish its work.
The 79-page Senate bill would fund the government at current levels and include about $6 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine and $6 billion in U.S. disaster assistance that has been in jeopardy. It also includes an extension of Federal Aviation Administration provisions expiring Saturday.
The Senate voted Tuesday to advance the short-term funding measure. This puts the Senate on a path to pass a continuing resolution later this week that could then be sent to the House to avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1.
The Associated Press and The Hill’s Alexander Bolton contributed to this report.