As the government shutdown drags into its fifth day, nearly all employees in the office overseeing federal food stamps have been cut.
As of Wednesday morning, the remaining staff dwindled down to a mere 5 percent.
The drastic change was flagged by CNN, which pointed a U.S. Department of Agriculture summary breaking down each of its resources under threat, and the days left until they disappeared. The Food Nutrition and Consumer Services office deals not only with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but also the Child Nutrition Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
While SNAP benefits will remain available in January and Child Nutrition programs will continue into February, the future of WIC is uncertain as the shutdown lingers on. The USDA suggested that states turn to local resources if needed.
In a statement Friday just before the government’s partial closure, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue attempted to ease concerns, noting the agency would try its best to keep to business as usual.
“There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” Perdue said. “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”
The agency echoed Perdue’s message on Twitter hours after the shutdown kicked in.
Key USDA services that won’t be cut include its inspections of poultry, meat and eggs and its monitoring of imports and exports for pests.
So far, there’s no end to the shutdown in sight as President Donald Trump continues battling for a spending bill with border wall funding, which has been stymied by the House despite passing the Senate. It is becoming increasingly possible the government might not reopen until January when Democrats gain control of the House.