By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget

Federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is still referred to by many people under its former name of food stamps, and is accessible in Michigan via the Michigan Bridge Card, appears to be available to Michigan residents through the end of October.

The concern is what happens after that point.

About 14 percent of Michigan residents receive food stamps, according to 2011 statistics posted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Michigan, this program is administered by the Michigan Department of Human Services. Food stamp allocations are staggered throughout the month, via a chart based on the client’s case number.

Technical glitch

There are reports on Oct. 12, 2013, of an unrelated technical problem with the EBT system used by Michigan Bridge Card. Those headlines and links are in a separate post.

News and agency reports

This is a snippet from a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on how a shutdown would affect various programs:

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. The authority to make October benefit payments comes from the Recovery Act, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to finance the SNAP benefit provided for in the Recovery Act. In addition, about $2 billion in contingency funding will be available and could be used to support State Administrative activities essential to continue the program and issue and process benefits.

The Lansing State Journal has this information in its Oct. 1 report Michigan losing $18 million a day in shutdown.

The 1.6 million Michigan residents on food stamps will be OK in October because their debit cards have already been loaded. Budget director John Nixon says in two weeks, the state will really “feel pain” and in a month it’s “really got a lot of problems.”

MLive newspaper network had this information Oct. 1 at Government shutdown costing Michigan $18 million a day:

Budget director John Nixon said that food stamps and TANF normally would not be affected by the shutdown, but are impacted now because federal authorization for the program expired at midnight Tuesday along with the fiscal year 2013 budget.

Food stamp recipients will receive October benefits as normal, Nixon said, as those funds had already been prepared for distribution, but could run out if the shutdown lasts beyond Oct. 31.

On Oct. 1, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement about the partial federal government shutdown:

Over 40 percent of Michigan’s budget — just over $20 billion — comes from federal government funding, and that money pays for services for our citizens such as Medicaid and food assistance for those in need.

If the federal government is shut down for just a day or two, the effects on Michigan’s residents will be minimal. A longer-term shutdown, though, could have consequences. Right now, our budget office is monitoring the situation to determine the impact that the shutdown will have on various federal programs in our state.

What can you do about groceries?

Given that food stamps meet a critical need for families who receive those services, I suggest that anyone who is on the EBT / SNAP program make the most of those benefits during the next few weeks.

For example, don’t buy Halloween candy right now, even though it is an allowable purchase. Your children can collect candy during trick or treat or trunk or treat parties (Monroe County MI’s trick or treat times are posted on The Monroe News’ online calendar as soon as we receive them). There also is no requirement that you distribute candy on trick-or-treat night. There are people who don’t host candy stations for reasons that have nothing to do with finances.

You also should use as many money-stretching tactics as you can to get the most for your grocery money during the next couple of weeks. In addition to the price matching that some stores do, and the fact that you can use coupons with food stamp purchases, it just so happens that fall is in one of the best times for frugal eats at the supermarkets. You can still find fresh produce, and the fall baking / home cooking promotions have started.

Check out my grocery sidebar for discussion points and links; and if you live in Monroe County, Mich., look up my grocery database to learn about money-saving tactics on a store by store basis.

In addition, the food pantry and soup kitchen programs remain available as usual; although as the shutdown continues, there may be more demand than usual.

The community resources in Monroe County, Mich., include:

  • The Lord’s Harvest Pantry, which is located at the Monroe County Opportunity Program offices. While there are many other food pantries in the area, Lord’s Harvest serves all of Monroe County and the staff is prepared to make referrals to other agencies and services that may be able to help your family.
  • The mobile food pantry operated by MCOP and it partners (the last one of the season is Oct. 12).
  • All of the soup kitchen dinners that are run by God Works! Family Soup Kitchen and local churches.
  • The personal care product distributions run by some of the area churches.
  • Low cost and free community resources for southeast Michigan residents can be found at Julie’s List.
  • The United Way Southeast Michigan 211 database can be researched online.
  • Local residents also are welcome to use the coupon swap boxes that are at most of the area libraries.

If you live elsewhere, your first phone call should be to the United Way or whatever agency runs either the 211 hotline or a human services hotline for your community.

This story was updated Oct. 12.

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