By Kate GeddeUpdated March 12, 2018 12:54:57A new study shows more than half of the U.S. states that have launched a pilot program for food stamps have had to shut down their offices after the federal government shut down the program.
The report from the Center for Responsible Lending and Economic Policy (CREEP) found that of the 31 states that announced a food stamp pilot program in 2017, more than two-thirds of them had to either close or lay off staff within six months after the government shut it down.
The program was a major boon to rural communities and small businesses, with food stamps benefiting roughly 8 million households nationwide.
In many cases, food stamps helped lower the cost of food, which helped spur businesses to invest in food production.
However, some states have had trouble with food stamp applicants, particularly those with children or seniors who have difficulty accessing the program, said CREEP Senior Fellow Laura Baca.
The federal government said it will re-open the program by March 31.
It did not respond to questions about the latest report.
CREEP said the program was designed to help rural communities with food insecurity, but some states said they saw it as a tool to aid corporations and the wealthy.
CREep said more than 5 million households are eligible for the program in the U, but only about 6 million of them have signed up for it.
The number of applications has dropped significantly from a peak of more than 3.6 million applications in 2014.
The agency expects the number of new applications to fall in the next two months.
In 2016, the U of C-led study found that more than 50 percent of SNAP participants in rural communities did not have enough money for basic food needs, and more than a third of households had less than $200 in their budgets.
The study found many SNAP recipients were struggling to pay their bills and needed help with other expenses, such as groceries and utilities.