WASHINGTON — As the government shutdown loomed over the holidays, heads of federal agencies and departments overseeing health and public assistance services tweeted that, regardless of what was happening in Washington, they were attending, as much as possible, to business as usual.
In a statement over the holiday weekend, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide.”
According to the statement, 61 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s employees would continue to work through the first week of the shutdown, but that number would decrease the longer the shutdown continues.
Some of the agency’s offices to be hit hardest by the closure include the office of Food and Nutrition Services that oversees the Child Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
By the end of the fifth day of the shutdown, staffing will be cut by 95 percent.
As of Tuesday, the department website displayed a message stating, “Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been re-established, online operations will continue.”
Eligible households will still receive monthly SNAP benefits for January. But other domestic nutrition assistance programs such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations will only be operational based on available resources.
Additional federal funds and commodities will not be provided during the shutdown.
Child nutrition programs including school lunch, school breakfast, child and adult care feeding, summer food service and special milk will continue through February.
The Department of Agriculture will maintain meat, poultry and processed egg inspection services. Inspections of food imports and exports will also continue throughout the shutdown.
An end to the shutdown didn’t appear to be in sight Thursday, as President Donald Trump dug his heels in over the budget.
After a call with U.S. troops, the president said, “I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”