Chas families worry gov't benefits running out from gov't shutdown

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A family in Summerville is concerned about its government benefits being cut off because of the government shutdown.

Liz Runge says her family receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits known as food stamps and Woman Infants and Children Nutrition (WIC) benefits.

As of now those benefits have not been impacted.

"I think it's important that the people... that aren't so affected by it, they don't have a government job or they've never received assistance they need to see the faces of the people that it is affecting," Runge said.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina Department of Social Services announced it will be issuing February’s SNAP benefits early as a result of the federal government shutdown.

Officials with DSS say SNAP recipients will have their February benefits available on their EBT card Jan. 17, 2019. This will affect an estimated 231,000 households.

They warn that this is not a bonus payment and that recipients are encouraged to carefully plan out their benefits for next month.

State officials say they don't know if the benefits will be available past February if the shutdown continues.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control released the following statement on Tuesday:

"DHEC continues to monitor the situation in Washington and we are in close contact with our federal partners regarding the federal government shutdown as it relates to South Carolina and the potential impact to federal services we provide.

Currently we are able to operate all programs as usual. The vast majority of our federal budget for 2019 has already been approved and allocated to the appropriate programs. Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, we may have to make some adjustments in the future. It would be inappropriate to speculate what the definite impacts could or would be while this situation is ongoing.

In the meantime, the folks at DHEC will continue to focus on our important mission, making every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens of South Carolina."

Runge says her 3-month-old daughter was born with disabilities and requires a special formula that costs them more than $400 a month.

The government assistance she receives helps pay for that and other food. Her WIC benefits come through DHEC.

"People might go hungry or be forced to rushed to their local food bank or rely on their family or friends for help, hopefully they have them," Runge said.

The family of four is living off her husband's pay check as she stays home to take care of her daughter.

She says they would have to cover at least $700 worth of expenses without any benefits.

"It's going to put a lot of strain on our budget, like I said we were barely scraping by as is," Runge said.

Runge says she believes change can be made if enough pressure is put on representatives.

“So write your senators, write your congressman, tell them this is unacceptable that there’s families that are really being hurt by this,” Runge said.

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