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WASHINGTON, D.C — Some 2,500 retail establishments in the U.S. are no longer able to accept payments from Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) because their licenses have expired. During the partial shutdown of the federal government, those licenses are not being renewed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
At least one of the grocery stores is in Congressman Antonio Delgado’s district, and according to press release from Delgado’s office, the store’s license to collect payment through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards has lapsed, and the owner can’t get it renewed. “Many of the store’s customers are seniors and have no reliable access to other grocery stores,” according to the press release.
Delgado wrote a letter to Sonny Purdue, secretary of the USDA, urging him to renew the suspended licenses. “Families and seniors rely on SNAP benefits to get by. But if they technically have the benefits and are unable to use them, they are utterly useless,” said Delgado. “I urge the Department of Agriculture to immediately extend expired EBT licenses for the duration of the shutdown so that no American will go hungry.” USDA could begin to renew licenses if it declared the process to be an “essential service.”
USDA issued a statement on the issue that said more than 99% of SNAP retailers are able to accept benefits as usual. “There is a small percentage of stores that failed to complete a required reauthorization process that was due on December 21,” the organization said. “These stores can take steps to update their status once funding is restored.”
SNAP benefits that were due in February were handed out early to the nearly 40 million Americans to receive them, and the program therefore will be funded through the end of next month. However, there is not enough funding to continue the program after that and it’s not clear what will happen should the shutdown last beyond February.
“Ending the government shutdown is Delgado’s first priority as a new member of Congress,” Delgado’s press team said. “His first votes in Congress were to pass legislation to reopen the government, and he has since cast additional votes to reopen the government—all proposals that previously passed the Senate with bipartisan support.”
Delgado is also an original cosponsor of a bill that requires the Congressional Budget Office to submit daily reports to Congress on the cost and impact of a government shutdown on the economy. He previously sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture asking how it will address the possible lapse in benefits under the SNAP due to the government shutdown.” Delgado is not accepting his government salary through the duration of the shutdown.
For a story on his first town hall meeting visit riverreporter.com/news.