Utah monitors funding for food stamps, school lunches, parks during government shutdown

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The State of Utah has kept a close eye on how the partial shutdown of the federal government is affecting programs like food stamps and free school lunches.

The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, or WIC, has sufficient funding for low-income families to redeem their assistance checks through all of February, according to the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

As for food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the governor’s office said funding has also been secured through the end of February.

Money needed to continue serving free lunches and breakfasts at Utah schools was set to run out at the end of January. After an announcement this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, child nutrition programs will be sustained into March.

“We have money in hand,” said Utah State Board of Education spokesperson Mark Peterson. “What you need to know if you are a parent is that those programs are good well into the month of March at this point.”

Schools were anxious about the situation, Peterson said. If the federal funding were to lapse, all students could be impacted if the state didn’t pick up the entire $16 million monthly bill.

“There are a lot of kids that depend on this — even if they are paying for the lunch,” Peterson said. “If the subsidies aren’t there, the lunches won’t be available.”

During the shutdown, Peterson said furloughed federal workers can apply for their children to receive free lunches. He advised them to check with the main office at their child’s school for application information.

Starting Monday, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will provide weekly updates about programs that could be impacted if the shutdown continues. One area of concern is finding a longer-term strategy for keeping Utah’s famous national parks operational.

Funding agreements with non-profit groups and local governments are currently being negotiated on an as-needed basis with two set to expire next week. So far, Utah has spent $66,000 to pay for essential staffing, bathroom cleaning and trash removal at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

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