BRAFB prepares for food stamp funding to run out

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- More than 800,000 people in Virginia receive food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The ongoing partial government shutdown could affect the funding for these food stamps.

If that happens, millions of Americans would lose their food assistance and turn to food banks for help.

"The partial government shutdown really puts a cliff at the end of February for people who are struggling to put food on the table," said Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday that it will ensure SNAP benefits through the month of February, under President Donald Trump's direction.

However, if the partial shutdown continues into March, funding for food stamps is uncertain.

"We're preparing as best we can. We're acquiring more food, we're bringing more food in-house," McKee said.

The food bank provides 22 million meals per year to 106,000 people across Central Virginia, but that is only a small portion compared to what SNAP provides.

"Imagine 12 times as much food behind me, " McKee gestured. "That's what we would need to provide suddenly in March if, indeed, benefits dry up."

The Internal Revenue Service is also affected by the partial shutdown and McKee said the loss of a tax return can make a difference.

"Sixty percent of families we serve have someone in the home who is working, so they're dependent on these tax returns hitting in February and March," he said.

McKee also said half of who BRAFB serves are children and elderly adults, who are more vulnerable populations.

"Our message to our elected leaders is get to work, open the government, keep these benefits flowing," said McKee.

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