Written by Caitlin Endyke
In the lead up to, and during, the federal government shutdown late last year, we wrote a lot about how governmental cuts and shutdowns tend to affect America’s most vulnerable populations much more than they affect the proverbial middle class. We used the delayed disbursement of SNAP and WIC benefits as one of the prime examples of how our poorest families were the most affected, as low income families across the country were nervous that political tensions in Washington were going to affect whether or not they were able to put food on the table.
To make matters worse, these families had already been living off of limited benefits in the months before the shutdown, thanks to earlier cuts to programs and the federal sequestration that began earlier this year. We talk a lot about the affect these cuts have not only on the families who receive these benefits, but also on the nonprofit agencies that have to step in to fill the gaps government programs have left behind. More and more, service agencies are tasked with doing more with less – as their own funding streams from government programs are drying up as well.
Few places are feeling the effects of these cuts as deeply as New Mexico, which is ranked first in the country for childhood hunger. In the wake of further cuts to food assistance programs following the expiration of Obama’s stimulus funding (the stimulus provided a 13.9 percent boost to SNAP funding since 2009), hunger relief programs across the state are seeing a marked increase in the amount of families seeking their services. New Mexico alone will have to deal with $47 million less in SNAP funding this year, meaning these agencies will have to step in to help these families continue to make ends meet. This article from a local news outlet in NM outlines the widespread effect these cuts will have on New Mexican families and service agencies. It quotes Melody Wattenbarger, CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank, the largest nonprofit hunger relief organization in the state, who notes, “SNAP is the basic food safety net in our country and any cuts for that drive up demand. These cuts that are being proposed — the number that we’re hearing, they’re so massive. There’s just no way that private sector food programs, like Roadrunner Food Bank, can ever hope to meet that need. We won’t be successful in filling that gap.”
Overall, it seems that the threat to these vital programs was far from over when the government shutdown ended. Instead, these already-depleted funds have been cut further and cash-strapped nonprofit agencies are tasked with having to keep up with the increased demand.