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Prolonged shutdown could impact food stamp benefits

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Prolonged shutdown could impact food stamp benefits

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Oct 11, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The partial government shutdown could leave hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who rely on food stamps looking for other ways to fill the fridge.

"It's going to impact me a lot," said Gary Swain, a food stamp recipient. "I got three more mouths at home to feed too."

Swain has relied on food stamps for about a year.

"Groceries, you know, they're not cheap and in most cases they're not giving them away either," said Swain.

More than 360,000 people in Nevada receive benefits from SNAP or the supplemental nutrition assistance program. An Oct. 8 report from the state's budget office shows federal funding for food stamps will run out by the end of October unless Congress approves funding to reopen the government.

Any potential impact to food stamps is likely still weeks away and could be fixed at any time if Congress takes action. But the uncertainty is taking a toll on some. 

"It definitely would be hard," said Thurman Hall, a food stamp recipient. "It would make you second guess what you would have to do to take care of your family."

Nevada's Division of Welfare and Supportive Services is working on a strategy in case funding is not renewed for November benefits, said staff specialist Miki Allard in an email. The agency will likely notify food stamp recipients if they believe the shutdown will continue into next month.

While the state could theoretically pick up part of the $45 million monthly tab to keep the program running, that's unlikely. It's unclear if the federal government would reimburse the state. 

Locally, much of the anger is directed at Congress.

"They're acting like children. Everyone just wants to pick up their toys and go home," said Swain. "People are starving out here."

The other concern is people will swarm local food pantries and non-profits seeking assistance if government funding is not replenished.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said this week the state simply cannot afford to keep the SNAP program running without federal funding. Roughly 500 state workers who oversee the program could also face furloughs if the shutdown continues into November. 

Michael Lopardi

Michael Lopardi

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Michael Lopardi is the featured reporter of the You Ask. We Investigate. franchise at Action News.