Will SNAP benefits for December be paid without an extension of the debt ceiling?

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Congress is running out of time to avoid a government shutdown. Lawmakers have until the Dec. 3 deadline to raise the debt ceiling before the United States defaults on its debt (although the estimate has recently revised on December 15 by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen). Many wonder if a government shutdown will impact federal benefits in December, especially those who depend on payments to pay their bills, buy food and other essentials, and secure health care.

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This has been particularly troubling for families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the country’s most essential anti-hunger program. According to the latest government data, around 42 million families depend on the SNAP program to feed their homes. SNAP benefit amounts are updated annually based on the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan, one of four food plans designed by the USDA that estimate the cost of healthy eating at various price points.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP and child nutrition beneficiaries face a major risk in the event of a government shutdown, primarily due to the program’s funding structure. This was evident after the month-long shutdown in December 2018.

The Department of Agriculture has asked states to prematurely issue the February 2019 SNAP benefits. Had the shutdown continued, the USDA had suggested that SNAP benefits would have been about half of those of March 2019. In addition, 5 million SNAP households experienced a gap of more than 40 days between monthly payments.

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However, safeguards are in place to ensure that the SNAP benefits disappear in the event of a shutdown, at least temporarily.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service has a contingency plan in the event of a shutdown due to insufficient funds. The plan calls for continued essential federal activities and funding, such as SNAP, but that plan only covers days after the shutdown begins.

In a letter to lawmakers earlier in November, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote that the the federal government has until December 15 to pay its bills. After that, there are “scenarios in which the Treasury would find itself with insufficient remaining resources to continue funding US government operations beyond that date.”

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The two parts must agree on a palliative by December 3 to continue funding federal operations.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Government shutdown 2021: will SNAP benefits for December be paid without extending the debt ceiling?

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