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October 04, 2013 4:58 PM If the Shutdown Drags On….

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been wondering when it might sink into the DC consciousness that at some point the federal government shutdown will start affecting grants-in-aid to states and localities, and the essential low-income services they finance. Here’s MSNBC’s Adam Serwer:

Federal food aid for low-income Americans could dwindle if the government shutdown drags into the next month-leaving the states in charge of deciding to cut off benefits altogether or to dig into local coffers to feed the needy.
The USDA has said it will fund the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-which helps feed about 45 million Americans a year, most of whom are children or elderly-through the end of October….
If the shutdown lasts into November, Americans reliant on SNAP could find themselves without aid, depending on the fiscal health of the state or the priorities of state leadership. A spokesperson for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration told MSNBC that “If the shutdown continues beyond October, the State of Indiana will assess its resources and consider its options for continuing to provide SNAP benefits.” Similarly, a spokesperson for Mississippi’s Department of Human Services said they would look to the USDA for guidance.
Some states are already cutting back on assistance for the poor. Arizona has stopped paying Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits entirely for the duration of the shutdown. Children are being turned away from Head Start programs closed because of the shutdown. The USDA has said it can fund the Women, Infants and Children food aid program through October, but as with SNAP states could be on their own if the shutdown drags into November.

So it’s not just a matter of what happens to “non-essential” federal employees. And at least employees can be voted “back pay.” It’s kind of hard to vote “back food.”

Unfortunately, cuts in federal food aid are likely to be considered a feature rather than a bug of the shutdown to many of the House Republicans driving this crazy train.

Watching this show roll on, I’m really beginning to feel like the “girl with the mousy hair” in Bowie’s “Is There Life On Mars?”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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