The USDA is directing states to withhold Electronic Transfer Benefits for the month of November until further notice, setting up a potential food stamp crisis that could very easily lead to riots and widespread looting if the government shutdown drags on.
The USDA, which oversees the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), issued the order in a letter to SNAP administrators which states, “Understanding the operational issues and constraints that States face, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their November issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice.”
In other words, up to 47 million Americans who rely on food stamps to feed themselves face the prospect of going hungry next month.
An EBT system failure that occurred this past weekend led to “mini-riots” and looting at several Walmart stores. In Springhill and Mansfield, Louisiana, shelves were cleared as frenzied customers tried to exploit unlimited credit balances that had temporarily been applied to their EBT cards as a result of the system glitch. Store managers also had to close a Walmart and call police in Philadelphia, Mississippi after customers began rioting when their EBT cards stopped functioning.
EBT card users responded by invoking the threat of widespread riots if the system went down again for any sustained period of time. More conspiratorial types even suggested that Saturday’s glitch was a beta test for a future total food stamp shutdown.
Imagine how millions of people living near the poverty line are going to react when they find out that their EBT cards may not be credited next month as a result of the government shutdown.
In the state of Utah alone, 100,000 people will see their benefits frozen. Richard Phillips, a homeless man who relies on food stamps, told Fox 13, “It’s going to cause problems… because then you’re going to come to find out that you’re going to have people starting to steal and do what they have to do to survive.”