The longest government shutdown in history has been much more than an inconvenience for the roughly 40 million people who rely on food stamps.
The United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, coordinated with states around the country to send out February benefits before the 21st of January, several weeks earlier than normal. The move was possible because of a provision in the short-term continuing resolution, which helped fund the program for another 30 days after the onset of the shutdown.
But no one knows what’s going to happen next, and the lack of answers is creating a bubbling panic throughout the vulnerable populations, as well as the entire ecosystem that’s built around the program.
VICE News traveled to Massachusetts, where families are suddenly unsure of how to budget, and programs that are meant to help them navigate the system don’t know what to tell them.
“I just try to be careful. I try not to overspend,” said Natalie Tejada, who relies on $547 in SNAP benefits every month to stay afloat. “Sometimes I have to put my foot down when it comes to the kids and what they want.”
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