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Agriculture

President Biden sounds alarm on hunger risk amid government shutdown

September 26, 2023 2:49 PM IST

US Presidnet | US Biden | black colleges | blacks | McCarthy | Vilsack | US Congress | hunger crisis

In a meeting focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, US President Joe Biden issued a stark warning about the potential repercussions if Congress fails to fund the federal government. He emphasized that such a failure could have grave outcomes for the Black community, impacting various essential services and programs.

Among the potential impacts mentioned were reductions in nutritional benefits, decreased inspections of hazardous waste sites, and weakened enforcement of fair housing laws.

President Biden mentioned that he had reached an agreement with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on government spending levels several months ago, solidifying the deal with a handshake. However, he expressed frustration that a small group of extreme House Republicans were now unwilling to uphold that agreement, potentially subjecting all Americans to the consequences of their actions.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had earlier informed reporters that a shutdown of the federal government would lead to immediate reductions in benefits for the majority of the 7 million participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This program is particularly crucial, as nearly half of all newborns in the United States rely on WIC for essential support, according to the USDA.

Vilsack also noted that another vital program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), would continue without disruptions throughout October but could face uncertainties beyond that point. SNAP is relied upon by over 40 million Americans to help meet their basic needs, and rising inflation has added to the financial strain on households, with prices for essential goods such as bread, fresh vegetables, and baby formula soaring since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the event of a government shutdown, various other consequences would ensue, including the halt of loans to farmers during the critical harvest period by farm service agencies. Additionally, new homebuyers in rural areas would face difficulties securing loans. The shutdown would also result in the furlough of over 50,000 Department of Agriculture employees, leaving them without pay during the period of the shutdown.

(Inputs from Reuters)

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