Rep. Delgado Calls for Answers on Stalled SNAP License Renewals During Government Shutdown

January 18, 2019
In response to constituent ina quiry, Delgado asks Department of Agriculture to quickly address the issue of expired SNAP licenses that are causing benefits to be denied at grocery stores

KINGSTON, NY – Today, Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) wrote to Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to ask him to quickly address an issue raised by one of Delgado’s constituents: While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will continue through the end of next month even in the face of a government shutdown, many grocery stores and other vendors are unable to process benefits – which is done through the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card program – because their license has expired, and cannot be renewed due to the government shutdown.

 

“Families and seniors rely on SNAP benefits to get by. But if they technically have the benefits and are unable to use them, they are utterly useless,” said Delgado. “I urge the Department of Agriculture to immediately extend expired EBT licenses for the duration of the shutdown so that no American will go hungry.”

 

In his letter, Delgado describes how he learned of this problem: A grocery store owner in the 19th Congressional District, who has accepted SNAP benefits for over 20 years, can no longer process the cards used to administer the benefits because his license expired. When he tried to renew it, he could not, because that part of the Department of Agriculture is currently shut down. Many of the store’s customers are seniors and have no reliable access to other grocery stores.

 

Ending the government shutdown is Delgado’s first priority as a new Member of Congress. His first votes in Congress were to pass legislation to reopen the government, and he has since cast additional votes to reopen the government — all proposals that previously passed the Senate with bipartisan support. He is also an original cosponsor of a bill that requires the Congressional Budget Office to submit daily reports to Congress on the cost and impact of a government shutdown on the economy, and he previously sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture asking how it will address the possible lapse in benefits under the SNAP due to the government shutdown. The Department has committed to fund SNAP benefits through February, but as today’s letter demonstrates, issues remain. Delgado’s pay will be withheld for the duration of the shutdown.

 

Read Delgado’s letter to the Department of Agriculture:

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I am deeply concerned by the government shutdown’s negative impact upon the viability of the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I urge your Department to immediately extend expired licenses for the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card program for the duration of the shutdown so that no American will go hungry.

Though I was relieved to learn that your Department funded SNAP benefits through February, these benefits are of little comfort to Americans who depend upon a limited number of vendors to accept their EBT cards. Benefits that cannot be redeemed are of no use to a beneficiary.

As you know, authorized SNAP vendors must renew their licenses with your Department every five years. Recent news reports indicate that more than 2,500 vendors need to renew their licenses but are unable to do so during the shutdown because your Department has deemed the renewal process to be non-essential. These vendors cannot accept EBT cards until their licenses are renewed.

At least one of the affected vendors owns a grocery store in my District. After accepting EBT for more than 20 years, his store’s EBT machine suddenly stopped processing payments on December 27. Most of his customers are locals, and the nearest grocery store is some distance away. In addition, many are elderly—making it difficult for them to travel elsewhere to redeem their SNAP benefits.

Those vendors who have attempted to reach your Department about this issue have been told that their applications are on hold until funding is restored. Tens of thousands of Americans who depend upon SNAP benefits to feed themselves and their families now find it more difficult to put food on their tables. The risk is especially acute in the “food deserts” found in both rural and urban areas—harming most those Americans who depend upon a single SNAP-authorized vendor in their vicinity to accept their EBT cards.

I also urge you to consider the severe economic damage done to the thousands of authorized SNAP vendors who are currently losing business as their renewal applications are stalled. In particular, farmers market vendors—who are now applying for EBT licenses for the fall season—are at risk of missing out on the $24.4 million in SNAP benefits that were redeemed at farmers markets last year.

I ask that you commit to extending EBT certifications during the remainder of the shutdown. To do so, I urge you to designate your Department’s SNAP processing function as an essential service. While government shutdowns always cause everyday Americans to suffer, no man, woman, or child in our nation should struggle to find food because of a lapse in government funding.

Sincerely,

Antonio Delgado

Member of Congress