Effects still felt from government shutdown — 
Fears of another loom large with concerns about the future


By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — There is no question the recent 34-day partial federal government shutdown affected thousands of government workers who were obliged to work with no paycheck coming in.

There is also no question that these workers were hit hard in the wallet, making it difficult to make ends meet as the longest shutdown in U.S. history dragged on.

But there are thousands of other Americans who felt and still feel the full brunt of the standoff who didn’t make the nightly news. Some of those folks are those who receive monthly payments from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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SNAP benefits provide necessary funds for people who are in need of assistance in purchasing basic, necessary food items for themselves and their families each month.

There was immediate concern for SNAP recipients when the partial shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018.

SNAP benefits are sent to clients during the first week of each month. As the impasse continued into January of this year, a decision was made to send the February benefits out between January 17 and 20, meant to get people through the end of February. 

“The shutdown really hit the regular person,” said Nancy Lawson of Community Action for Better Housing, a ministry of the Diocese of Fall River that helps people in need of affordable housing. “With the SNAP benefits having gone out in mid-January instead of early February for the month of February, we want SNAP recipients to fully understand that those benefits are intended to last until the end of February. If people spend all of the allotted funds before then, there’s a danger that they may use their finances to purchase more food for themselves and their families, and risk not paying other important bills, like the rent or medicines.”

Lawson said these people live day-to-day and human nature being what it is, some people may not think far enough down the road to budget those February benefits.

Add to that the fact that there may be another partial government shutdown in mid-February, people could be in dire circumstances come late February and early March.

By the time this edition of The Anchor is published on February 8, SNAP recipients will have already had their benefits for nearly three weeks with at least three weeks still to go before their next installment.

“When something like this shutdown happens it can really change people’s lives,” added Lawson. “It’s important for people to be prudent with their benefits so they will be able to take care of their other necessities.”

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance handles SNAP benefits and applications. On its website it informed recipients of the early release of the SNAP benefits and instructed its clients: “Even though you received your February SNAP benefits in January, they will need to last you through February. We urge you to plan your spending carefully.”

The site also informed clients on February 1, “If you are an active SNAP client, or if you are eligible and are approved or recertified for SNAP benefits for March you will get them.”

Lawson told The Anchor that if people find themselves without funds for food they should contact Catholic Social Services to find the nearest food pantry; Fall River — 508-674-4681; Cape Cod — 508-771-6771; New Bedford — 508-997-7337; and Taunton — 1-800-259-0382.

Lawson also said that those who are in danger of losing their housing should call 1-800-HOMELESS (1-800-46635377) for information about available shelter beds and housing within the New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton and Attleboro areas.

The Mass. DTA offers a FoodSource Hotline, 800-645-8333.

For information about applying for or questions with the SNAP benefits, visit https://dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov.


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