The partial government shutdown is taking its toll in Colorado, with farmers unable to get federal loans and tens of thousands of families facing the prospect of food aid running out.
The economic toll could cost Colorado as much as $201 million a month, an online investment adviser says.
The potential losses are based on an analysis by The Ascent in Lakewood, a new personal finance venture by The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial services company. The analysis looks at the projected monthly income from withheld federal salaries as well as the hit to people’s income from the loss of benefits under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The Colorado Department of Human Services was trying Friday to spread the word that the USDA has asked states to issue February’s benefits early, by Jan. 20. The early date means that SNAP recipients whose eligibility must be recertified by the end of January need to submit the required documents no later than noon Jan. 15.
Government officials are trying to get February benefits to people before funding lapses because of the partial shutdown, which includes USDA. Benefits might not be available after February.
“We need folks to understand how important it is to act quickly so they won’t see a disruption in their benefits,” said Ki’i Powell, director of the state’s Office of Economic Security in the Human Services Department.
Colorado families receive about $55 million per month in SNAP benefits. The analysis by The Ascent ranks Colorado as the 19th-hardest-hit state by the shutdown. The rankings, on a per capita basis, factor in the percentage of government workers and federal subsidies.
A fact sheet released this week by the Center for American Progress says Colorado has 15,700 federal workers. They make up 2.7 percent of the workforce.
The effects of the shutdown will be felt across the board in Colorado, according to The Ascent’s analysis, costing the equivalent of $37 a month per resident if it continues.
“I’m deeply worried. I think the effects on rural Colorado are going to be tough,” Sen. Michael Bennet said Friday.
Bennet said he has heard from Colorado farmers who can’t get loans through the USDA’s Farm Services Agency. He has heard from federal employees, including a woman who works for the Bureau of Land Management, who are struggling to get by
“Through no fault of her own, because of the political nonsense that’s going on in Washington, she’s getting her life upended,” Bennet said.
About 200 federal workers and their supporters took to the streets of downtown Denver on Thursday to call for an end to the partial shutdown that started Dec. 22. A standoff between Congress and President Donald Trump over $5.7 billion the president wants for a wall on the country’s southern border has stalled funding for several agencies, including the USDA, Interior, Homeland Security, State and Transportation.
About 420,000 federal workers deemed “essential” are working without pay and another 380,000 federal workers are furloughed from their positions.
Sen. Cory Gardner is also hearing from farmers and other Coloradans about the impact of the shutdown, spokesman Casey Contres said.
“While Senator Gardner strongly supports addressing border security, and increasing funding for border security, he does not think shutting down the government is the right answer. He hopes a compromise can be found soon in order to end the shutdown so that issues like this stop happening and people’s lives are not impacted,” Contres said in an email.
The relief Colorado farmers and ranchers felt in December when a new farm bill was finally approved has been eclipsed by the anxiety caused by the shutdown. Both the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the Colorado Farm Bureau have heard about people having trouble securing the loans they need to keep their operations going.
Nick Levendofsky, director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said a nephew of one of the organization’s members has a $100,000-plus piece of equipment on order, but doesn’t have the funding he was counting on to pay for it. Irrigation projects are on hold because employees at the Natural Resources Conservation Service aren’t working.
“There is only a small window to complete projects like this in preparation for the upcoming farm season,” Levendofsky said.
“The biggest impact of the shutdown for our members is that it halts the momentum we gained after the new farm bill passed at the end of 2018,” said Taylor Szilagyi, Colorado Farm Bureau spokeswoman. “USDA is operating on a smaller staff and the department won’t be able to implement the important programs that are located in the bill.”
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