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Senator visits food banks, hears from federal workers

January 12, 2019
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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visits Facing Hunger Foodbank to speak on how the federal government shutdown is affecting nutrition programs across West Virginia on Friday in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Darrell Chapman, an employee of the Ashland Federal Corrections Institution, gets a three-month supply of insulin for his 11-year-old daughter with type 1 diabetes that he must pay for in cash through his insurance. Thankfully, they are in the middle of the supply because, as the result of the federal government shutdown, Chapman didn’t get a paycheck Friday.

Chapman was one of several community members who visited with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Friday as he toured Facing Hunger Foodbank in Huntington. Manchin also visited United Food Operations Inc. and Yeager Airport in Charleston. He is donating his paychecks during the shutdown to the two food banks.

Manchin heard from federal employees and workers at the food pantries how the shutdown over the Mexican border is affecting them. West Virginia has more than 18,000 federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay, like the federal prison workers.

Chapman said not getting a paycheck affects his life in a lot of small ways.

“I own a small farm in Wayne County, and when the feed barrels run low, you have to refill them some way,” he said.

At Facing Hunger Foodbank, which serves 116,000 individuals in 17 counties in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, the shutdown is affecting U.S. Department of Agriculture funding that pays administrative costs for the nonprofit. The last check was received at the end of December, and this month they will only receive half of the normal appropriations, said Cyndi Kirkhart, executive director.

The food bank is already stressed, seeing increases in need recently due to the opioid epidemic and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. As federal workers go without pay, Kirkhart predicts they will see even more need. If the shutdown stretches long enough and SNAP benefits run out, it would be a crisis situation.

Most customers of SNAP, which is administered nationally by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, will receive their February SNAP benefits in January because of the partial shutdown.

February assistance benefits for these customers will be loaded to customer accounts/EBT cards by Jan. 20. Customers can use these funds immediately at any authorized retailer, but they will not receive more benefits for February.

“We all are so committed to this mission and vision, we will just find a way,” Kirkhart said. “I know the community always shows up for us, and they will continue to.”

Manchin said he wants President Donald Trump to go ahead and declare a national emergency over the border. He said he thinks it’s wrong and an overreach, but at least the government could begin operating again as the declaration is fought in the court system. He said this is just how the president operates — in chaos.

Manchin placed most of the blame at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“We have a total political meltdown, and you can blame until the cows come home, but right now it’s in the hands of really Mitch McConnell,” Manchin said. “He could let us vote on the six bills that open 90 percent of government today. The one they are having all the disagreement on and the fighting back and forth whether it’s a secure border or wall, immigration reform — all of this has to be fixed. You can’t do one without the other. But you don’t have to make the whole country suffer. You don’t have to hold people hostage, and that’s what they are doing right now.”

Manchin said he thinks the shutdown will be over next week, whether it’s through votes or through a national emergency declaration. If not, he said SNAP benefits running out will force politicians’ hands to at least pass emergency funding.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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