VERNAL — Nearly 100,000 Utah households could be cut off from a critical federal benefit if Congress can't resolve the budget impasse by month's end.
"The food stamp program is paid for through the end of October," Utah Department of Workforce Services spokesman Nic Dunn said Tuesday.
"But if the federal government isn't able to reach a deal, as far as operating in time for Nov. 1, then the benefit amount that would normally go to Utahns would not be available," he added.
That's troubling news for Brandi, a single mother from Vernal who receives food stamps. She spoke with KSL-TV on the condition that her last name not be used.
"I have two jobs and two kids, so (receiving food stamps) is definitely not a way to get out of working," Brandi said, adding that she wrestled with the decision to apply for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
I always thought it was just welfare and that I didn't need it. But I did need it.
"I didn't really want to because I always thought it was just welfare and that I didn't need it," she said. "But I did need it. We needed it."
The loss of federal funding for food stamps will affect about 245,000 Utahns, Dunn said. State officials know that is more than just a statistic, he said.
"We're in active conversations with Governor Herbert's office, keeping them in the loop with this," Dunn said. "We're exploring every way we can to mitigate the impact, to reach out to our customers and keep things as smooth and stable as we can."
With the future funding of food stamps in question, Dunn said, now would be an ideal time for people to make donations to Utah's food banks.
"We're very confident and optimistic a deal will be reached," he said, "and if we get an increase in donations to our local groups, and the federal government is back up and running before November, the worst thing that's happened is we have more donations in the holiday season."
Brandi acknowledged that she may have to turn to a food pantry if she loses her food stamp benefits. She also plans to stock up on frozen, canned and boxed foods that have a longer shelf life.
"I guess I'll do what I have to do and just make what I had last," she said, "and try to make the remaining money on my food card last as long as I can."