CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The ongoing partial government shutdown could affect America’s largest food aid program.
More than 38 million Americans rely on food stamps to feed their families including thousands of people here in the Heartland.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which has enough money for the rest of the month.
However, there’s no guarantee about the future if the government shut down continues.
The Agriculture Department’s does have a $3 billion emergency fund, but that amount doesn’t even cover the cost of two-thirds of the food stamp program for a single month.
Natalie Giles is mother of five from Cape Girardeau who thinks it would be horrible if funding for food stamps dried up.
“You can’t keep breaking the poor. We don’t have anything left to give,” Giles said. “You want to take something away that really holds a lot of the households together. With out it, it’s trouble. The one thing that will truly break a women is for her to hear her children crying because they are hungry and there is nothing she can do about it."
For years Giles has used her food stamp card to buy groceries so her family has enough to eat.
Her jaw dropped when she heard that USDA might not have enough funding for the food stamp program through next month if the partial government shut down continues.
“It’s a big problem, but picture all these people who are relying on this source, not having what they need uprise and do something that they don’t want to do," Giles said. "Can they picture that? They have to imagine the looting, the rioting and all of this stuff happening because there are no more food stamps to feed their families on.”
Giles is optimistic the shutdown can stop, and funding for food stamps can continue.
Her urgent message for lawmakers in Washington D.C. Is to imagine living through the same struggles she has faced.
“Give them a week in the shoes of the people who rely on this program they will come up with a solution very fast,” Giles said.
Lt. Matt Degonia is the corp officer at the Cape Girardeau Salvation Army. He says majority of the people they serve are on food stamps.
"Its a very diverse group of people,” Degonia said. “The poor in our community need that program so if it’s shutdown for whatever reason it would be a huge detriment. I just don’t know how people will be able to make ends meet.”
If funding for SNAP runs out, Degonia says is will also put a burden on local food pantries who can only cover a fraction of what food stamps provides.
“A lot of the food that we give comes from USDA. So if you cut the USDA out not only are hurting the WIC and the SNAP but you might even hurt us, the people who are here to help the poor with their groceries," Degoina said. "It’s kind of a cascading effect. Obviously we are going to help people as much as we can. But we could never supplement SNAP ourselves here. There is no way.”
One piece of good news is that United Way has helped the Cape Girardeau Salvation Army extend their lunch feeding program to the last three weeks of the month instead of just the last two.
Degonia says that program along with donations of food and money will be essential for feeding lower income neighbors if the government shutdown persists.