Trump to fund food stamps despite government shutdown

The Trump administration has vowed to continue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – benefits to low-income Americans, even as the government shutdown drags into its third week.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the decision late Tuesday, which will keep the program funded through February.

“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the Administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

The solution draws from a provision in the recently-expired continuing resolution – allowing programs like SNAP to incur the costs of operations within 30 days of the stopgap measure’s expiration. That will require states to make SNAP funding requests earlier than usual – by Jan. 20.

The cumulative cost of the program for February is expected to total $5.1 billion. Around 38 million beneficiaries receive SNAP assistance.

Other nutrition assistance programs – including those for children and women – will also remain funded.

Along with a number of other agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s funding expired on Dec. 21. SNAP benefits were fully funded through January.

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Additionally, the administration announced this week it would pay out tax refunds – despite the fact that corresponding IRS staffers are not deemed essential personnel and thus not required to work while they are not being paid. This is a reversal of traditional policy, whereby taxpayers were able to submit documentation, but refunds were typically not issued while the government was not fully operational.