Last week in his historic address to Congress, Pope Francis called on those in government to see its work as “an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good.”
Yet, too many in Congress don’t seem to have received that message. We find ourselves on the brink of another manufactured crisis, facing threats of another government shutdown.
Shutting down the government again would hurt all Americans, but would be particularly hard on those that need our help the most: children, older Americans, and those with disabilities.
As Pope Francis said, “[t]heir problems are our problems.”
More than 45 million Americans — including approximately 1.7 million Ohioans — depend on food stamps, through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to put food on the table.
But unlike during the government shutdown in 2013, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was able to use additional one-time funds to continue paying SNAP benefits, these funds are no longer available in the event of another shutdown.
We know that more than 60 percent of SNAP recipients are children, the elderly, and Americans with disabilities. These Americans are surviving on so little, and a shutdown could take away this small benefit that is their families’ lifeline. According to a study by the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities, the average benefit for the SNAP program is just $1.40 per person, per meal.
Not everyone on food stamps will be affected—beneficiaries who have funds, from September, on their cards can still use the card to buy food, and because of how Ohio disburses funds, some Ohioans may not be affected by a brief shutdown.
But the fact remains that privileged politicians in Washington are causing needless stress and worry for millions of families who depend on SNAP to help put food on the table. These are hardworking families who are just scraping by, and Congress should not be manufacturing another crisis.
We have just one day left to fund the government. It’s time to stop the partisan stunts, and pass a clean bill that keeps open these important programs, so that these Ohio families don’t have to worry about their next meal.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.