OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A government shutdown threatens to disrupt federal food assistance programs like WIC and SNAP. Thousands of Oklahoma families rely on those programs, and without them, many may end up turning to food banks and pantries for help.
Similar to the last government shutdown from late 2018 into early 2019, WIC and SNAP recipients risk losing funds. That’s why places like the Regional Food Bank and Infant Crisis Services have been preparing for an influx of people if Congress doesn’t get things straightened out.
“The struggle is real,” Eva Jones, concerned resident said.
Oklahoma families are preparing for the worst if the U.S. government shuts down at midnight Sunday.
“They don’t realize how many families are going to be affected,” Jones said.
“So this year we have been seeing about 2000 clients per month,” Riley Benson-Ferren, Manager of Communications at Infant Crisis Center said.
Infant Crisis Center provides things like food, baby formula and diapers. They now have to stock up on supplies in case of a potential increase in those seeking help.
“We know that with government shutdowns, families will be a little bit more pinched for cash than they already have been,” Benson-Ferren said.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is preparing too, based on what they noticed during the last government shutdown.
“During the last government shutdown, which started at the end of 2018 and went into 2019, lasted 35 days,” Cathy Nestlen, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma said. “By midway point of the shutdown, we started seeing an increased need and food assistance from families and households that had never needed food assistance before.”
The State Department of Health, which oversees WIC, sent this statement to News 4:
“If the federal government shuts down, we do not anticipate our WIC program to be impacted immediately. The OSDH is communicating with our partners, at the federal level, to discuss potential impacts; however, at this time we do not have a full picture of the potential local impact.”
As for SNAP, DHS sent this statement:
“This is an issue all human services agencies across the country are closely watching to ensure we are prepared to meet our customers needs in the event of a federal government shutdown. While Oklahoma Human Services is waiting official guidance from our federal partners, we want to reassure customers their benefits will not be immediately affected by a shutdown. SNAP recipients will receive their October benefit allotments by their usual allotment date.”
Still, families are worried.
“We have people who are working two and three jobs like myself,” Jones said. “I work Monday through Friday at my day job. My kids are grown. I have no grandchildren, but I work here part time and I can only imagine that families have more than one child and bills to pay.”
Each program News 4 spoke to today says they have fully prepared for this possibility, and they are ready to serve every Oklahoman that needs help, without having to turn anyone away.