Congress Passes Last-Minute Legislation Avoiding Shutdown, For Now

By Max Friedman

p578602_lYesterday, Congress passed a last minute short term bill, known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR, to avert a government shutdown which would have started today, the beginning of the new federal fiscal year.

A shutdown would have led to the halt to many programs including SNAP, known as food stamps. 430,000 SNAP recipients in Connecticut would have lost their benefits over the next few days.

A few weeks ago, when it looked like the nation was headed towards a shutdown, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told state Social Services agencies to stop processing SNAP payments for October. The USDA fact sheet on a possible shutdown noted that they would have limited funding in October and would then have to block retailers from accepting SNAP benefits. If the shutdown had lasted more than a day or so, it would then take a few days after a new budget was passed to bring retailers back online, further delaying the ability of families to buy food.

Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro blasted the possible gap in benefits, saying, “Hunger is not an imaginary problem. I have stood with the Witnesses to Hunger and seen the pain in their faces as they describe what it is like to tell their children there is no food left… One in five children under age six suffers from food insecurity—a fancy way of saying they start and end their days hungry. That is abhorrent. The current brinksmanship is a travesty…”

The bill, which was signed by President Obama last night, funds the government at largely the same levels as the past year until December 11, when we’ll be right back where we started, looking at the prospect of families losing benefits right in the middle of the holiday season.

Hopefully, Congress will pass a real budget before that, though, it’s likely to be another CR, possibly for the rest of the 2016 Fiscal Year. A full year CR would likely continue 2015 funding levels into 2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The next few months will see new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives clash with the Senate and White House on funding priorities for the next year. While news commentary will focus on the political horserace, we should remember the people who suffer when politicians play these games.

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