The East Atlanta Village Farmers Market is one of many in Georgia that accept food stamps. Maya T. Prabhu/maya.prabhu@ajc.com

DEEPER FINDINGS: Shutdown could deplete Georgia’s food stamp funding

More than 1.5 million Georgians are in danger of losing access to food stamps as the partial federal government shutdown heads into its third week.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recipients will receive their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, in January. The guidelines from the agency, which oversees SNAP, don’t address benefits for February if the shutdown continues.

As of Nov. 30, the most recent data available from the state Division of Family and Children Services, more than 1.5 million Georgians in 700,619 households were benefiting from food stamps. Households received an average of $268 a month, state officials said.

“Georgia has exercised prudent cash management to prepare for the possible impact of a limited federal shutdown,” DFCS spokesman Walter Jones said. “The division is monitoring the situation and will evaluate options as circumstances dictate.”

The guidelines from the Agriculture Department, led by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s former governor, direct states to use any money they have on hand for nutrition assistance programs such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and Special SNAP for Women, Infants and Children. The Child Nutrition Program, which includes school breakfast and lunch, will continue to operate into February. There is no guidance after that.

“Additional federal funds and commodities will not be provided during the period of the lapse,” the USDA guidelines said.

By the fifth day of the shutdown, 95 percent of the USDA’s employees working in food and nutrition customer services had been furloughed.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the shutdown would last “as long as it takes” until Congress agrees to provide sufficent funding to construct a wall on the country’s southern border.

The same day, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was selected as the new speaker of the House on Thursday, told NBC that there is “no amount of persuasion” he could use to get Democrats to agree to fund a wall along the border with Mexico.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/politics.

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