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Fears and facts over Section 8 and SNAP loss during the shutdown

Fears and facts over Section 8 and SNAP loss during the shutdown
Cover of the 2018 Homeless Assessment Report (Image Source: Twitter/@HUDGov)

Amid the longest shutdown in government history, many who depend on Section 8 and Federal food assistance programs such as SNAP are concerned. Their concerns are well-founded and represent an unparalleled crisis for those who depend on social safety nets.

The fundamental issue is what will happen next to these families. Here are some questions that have been identified.

How is the federal government helping SNAP recipients?

The federal government has authorized the early release of SNAP benefits to recipients for the month of February. On Friday, Jan. 19, 2019, the government announced that the last disbursal went out for recipients. People are being warned to budget carefully for the month of February because there will be no additional resources coming from the government. If the shutdown continues into March or beyond, the USDA cannot guarantee that the program will be funded and disbursals made.

What about programs such as WIC and the federal school lunch program?

According to a statement from the USDA on Jan. 8, 2019, “The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs, have funding available to continue operations through March.”

What is the current situation with Section 8 and the government shutdown?

Because of the current shutdown, the government has been unable to renew contracts and set up payments for many landlords. If the shutdown continues, many of these landlords will not receive payment starting in March.

If a person is on Section 8, can they be evicted during the shutdown?

It is illegal to evict a person over a missed payment from the federal government for a Section 8 voucher. However, that is contingent on the voucher holder having the 30 percent rent payment for which they are responsible. The exception to this policy are those people who are on a month-to-month lease for housing. Depending on the individual state and in some cases city, some landlords can use a loophole to start the eviction process over a missed federal payment for a month-to-month lease. But trying to evict a Section 8 voucher holder under an existing contract would result in an illegal eviction by the landlord.

If a landlord leaves the Section 8 program during the shutdown, can I be evicted?

Leaving the Section 8 program would be a drastic action for a landlord, but it is an option. However, all applicable laws must still be followed. Even in such a case, a tenant must be given written notification that the landlord is no longer accepting vouchers. The landlord must still give the tenant an opportunity to pay the market rate of the housing in question. HUD regulations and the lease and must follow HUD and state and local procedures. According to HUD’s website, “Owners and tenants are advised that HUD termination policies and procedures must be followed when initiating a termination, including proper notices and documentation. Owners are also advised that terminations for reasons other than those permitted by HUD are prohibited.”

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