By Erin Skaar , Executive Director of CARE, Inc. and Melissa “Mis” Carlson-Swanson, Branch Services Manager for Oregon Food Bank Tillamook County Services
We so often hear that many in our community are one paycheck away from being hungry or homeless. The recent government shut down brought that front and center for all of us as the spotlight was shined on those paid through the federal government. In Tillamook County, that meant just over 100 families were facing the financial crisis that comes from an unexpected loss of income.
As we look to the continuing challenges in getting our federal government funded, we want to shine the spotlight on the many others who will be facing that same financial crisis if the federal government does not pass a spending bill that will ensure the continuation of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) for our low wage families. In Tillamook County, 1,389 households representing 2,982 individuals are participating in SNAP. Working families rely on SNAP benefits to keep food on their table. We would like to think that working families would make enough money to put food on their table without support. Unfortunately, that is not true for many here who work in lower wage jobs.
Take Sarah as an example. Sarah is a single mom who has a good job in Tillamook that pays $13 per hour. Sarah isn’t always able to get a full 40 hours per week, due to the changing shifts offered by her employer, but her SNAP benefits help ensure that there is always food for the her and the kids. Sarah fills in the gaps with food from the local food pantry when she can get the time off to get there. Her work hours are typically during the daytime, when the pantries are open, so that part is tough. Now, let’s think about what would happen if the federal government were to shut down and not provide SNAP benefits. Sarah would be forced to take time off work to get to the food pantry. That would reduce her paycheck and push her even further into financial distress. A smaller paycheck could put her in jeopardy of not being able to pay her rent. The downward spiral to homelessness is never far away for families, and removal of the critical support of SNAP benefits can be the last straw.
We call on President Trump and Senator McConnell (R-KY) to take government shut-downs off the table as negotiations over border security commence. Further shut-downs will catalyze a crisis across the country—almost 40 million Americans (mostly veterans, seniors, children, and people with disabilities) living without SNAP benefits. The shutdown increased hunger, poverty, and human suffering. The President and Congress must not repeat the same mistake.