As a nonprofit agency that depends on local, state and federal government funds for over 50 percent of its operating budget, SNAP pays close attention to the news of government shutdowns on any level.
The latest scenario began at midnight on Dec. 22 when President Trump and Congress reached a stalemate on appropriating sufficient funds for 2019 and could not agree on a temporary continuing resolution to keep the federal government running on all cylinders. The latest partial federal government shutdown is now the second longest of its kind in U.S. history.
As it has in the past, SNAP makes it a priority to ensure that all employees are apprised of the latest updates, including how the shutdown may affect their respective jobs and compensation. SNAP administration sends out regular emails regarding the situation and encourages staff to pass along any questions they may have. In addition, SNAP staff has been directed to forward any email, written notices or phone messages related to 2019 shutdown from any funders or partners to the appropriate agency channels.
According to SNAP CEO Julie Honekamp, accurate and consistent reporting is critical “in order to make sure we are making sound decisions regarding client services and keeping staff agency wide up to speed on where things stand.”
Honekamp added that such cessations divert agency energy.
“When the government shuts down a chain of events begin to unfold ranging from diminished client services, to staffing, organizational and community impacts,” she said. “Precious time that could be spent fulfilling our mission is instead spent on reassuring clients, communicating with staff, monitoring notices from funders working to ensure SNAP has the fiscal wherewithal to ride out this storm.”
Because SNAP has so many different funding sources, it is often difficult to make any agency-wide predictions regarding a government shutdown. In addition, staff members are often paid through multiple grants which means having to define what percentage of a particular job is impacted.
Regardless of the funding storms that arise, SNAP remains dedicated to serving clients with unwavering commitment.
“SNAP is resilient,” said SNAP Mission Support Services Director Amber Johnson. “While having so many funding sources makes for a complex regulatory environment, it allows us more flexibility. In other words, because we are not 100 percent federally funded, we have some flexibility available to us. We also have agency reserves for situations such as these. This resilience will assist SNAP in maintaining operations as long as possible.”
Johnson explained that SNAP has worked over the years to refine its processes, grow its resiliency and ensure the agency has action plans in place for these types of situations.
“We have worked with the managers and supervisors to ensure that any notices regarding the shutdown from our funders make it to our CEO and COO as soon as possible so we can begin working on next steps. As always, our decision making process is grounded in our values of Community, Respect and Justice.”
Following the federal government shutdown in late 2013, SNAP launched the “Resiliency Campaign,” designed specifically to engage the private sector, foundations, faith groups, service clubs and other funding sources to counteract losses brought about by government shutdowns as well at to prepare the agency for the ripple effect of calamities such as the November 2015 windstorm that left many homes in disrepair and thousands without power.
“The Resiliency Campaign has helped us stay very intentional about building up funds to address unanticipated crunches to our budget,” said Honekamp. “We know our call is to keep serving our clients and helping them reach their human potential regardless of what fiscal challenges we may face.”
To this point there have been no furloughs or layoffs at SNAP and programs continue operating without change or interruption.
“It is business as usual for our clients,” Johnson said. “Our doors are open and all services are moving ahead as usual. Should that change we would utilize our website, social media pages and phone system to deliver any messages to our clients about changes in our services.”