Local lawmakers seek solutions for food assistance programs amidst shutdown

Minnesotans on food assistance are already worried about the next few weeks if the Federal Government doesn’t reopen.

It’s one of the ripple effects of the shutdown as SNAP EBT cards were loaded this week with the February allowance. That’s typically about $110, but that only lasts about three weeks. With no more money coming from the government, that’s going to put increasing pressure on local food shelves.

At Horizons Unlimited Food Shelf, 350 families a week walk through the doors. Today, Sen. Tina Smith did too.  

It’s at the food shelf that she heard from one recipient that her monthly food shelf allowance will not help her get by.

“My perspective is that one day at the food shelf for 20 to 25 items surely will not make up for the loss of the food stamps EBT SNAP benefits,” said Cecilia Chapman, of South Minneapolis.

State leaders are already searching how to fund the gaps.

“What’s happening is the state is stepping in to help minimize the impact on Minnesotans,” Smith said. “But we don’t know what funds we might have to help people in March and we are trying to figure out who we are going to get through February.”

Right now about 400,000 Minnesotans a month rely on SNAP allowances to eat. Over the course of a year, that’s about one in 10 Minnesotans.

The need is growing, too. Hennepin County is already processing this weekend 800 SNAP applications and they’re worried about where the money is going to come from when the federal funds dry up in March.

That amounts to $42 million. Money that Gov. Tim Walz has already promised to find so people can get food.

“What you see is this cascading impact and we are fortunate that we have such leadership at the state, but what we have to do is open the federal government so the state doesn’t have to step in and fill this gap,” said Smith.

Still, it’s causing those on food assistance to worry.

“I don’t know where else we can turn,” said Chapman. “We can turn to the food shelf, but I don’t know where we can turn for food.” 

The state has not had to kick in any funds yet to keep the food assistance program afloat. A bipartisan group of lawmakers this week promised to work together to find the funding if it is needed.