FoodShare benefits up in the air as the government shutdown continues

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The effects of the more than month-long government shutdown is spreading well past the 800,000 federal workers.

"The government shutdown has really started to scare people a little bit," said La Crosse Hunger Task Force Executive Director Shelly Fortner.

For those in Wisconsin that are apart of the FoodShare program, the clock is ticking on being able to receive their benefits in the near future.

"The FoodShare program is fully funded through February, however people are getting their February benefits in January. Some have already received them already so it's really important that people are rationing the FoodShare benefits so that they're going to last through the month of February," said Fortner.

But that is where the guarantee ends.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says some FoodShare members have received letters saying they will not get benefits in March because of the shutdown, and most likely will not get the benefits if the government does not reopen by then.

In a statement, the department says in part,

"DHS continues to work with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to understand the impacts the shutdown may have on March benefits."

In the meantime, those affected are starting to use food pantries and different meal services to get by.

The Hunger Task Force says that if the government shutdown is not resolved soon, they will have to adjust how much food they give out.

"Should this last too much longer, we may have to ration to the food pantries and the meal sites, the amount of food they're getting, just so there's enough for everyone and we can make it last for however long this is going to go on," said Fortner.

According to the Wisconsin DHS, more than 250,000 households received their February FoodShare benefits this week.

But with March as an unknown, Fortner says donations are more important than ever.