NC Budget and Tax Center

Federal shutdown is affecting family-run businesses in N.C.

The ripple effects of the federal shutdown are being felt by family-run businesses in North Carolina, according to an article on Friday by Paul B. Johnson of the High Point Enterprise.

Nick Owens and employees at his family-run business are having to turn away customers through no fault of their own because of a ripple effect of the federal government shutdown.

Lanier’s Super Market in Davidson County accepts food stamps from customers to pay for groceries. But the store in Denton is among businesses across the Piedmont, state and nation caught in limbo because their permits to accept food stamps are on hold due to the shutdown.

“Our customers haven’t been able to use food stamps with us since right after Christmas,” Owens said.

Lanier’s Super Market and other grocers were on a schedule to have their food stamp sale permits renewed in late December or January. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture can’t renew licenses now because of the stalemate from the shutdown.

The article points out that more than 2,500 grocery stores and food retailers across the United States haven’t been able to renew their food stamp sale permits since the shutdown began. That total includes 158 businesses in North Carolina.

“These retailers are providing food access to families across the state, and many are in areas that lack many options for families to secure food for their table,” said Brian Kennedy, public policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center out of Raleigh.

This disruption in retailer’s abilities to accept SNAP has far-reaching consequences. Nearly two-thirds of households that receive SNAP are families with children, and almost a third are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities. And while more than 42 percent of SNAP families are employed, many of those still rely on food assistance to make up for low wages and unpredictable work schedules. (Read more about how the shutdown is harming people and businesses in N.C. in a previous blog post.)

Customers have noticed the delay in Lanier’s Super Market renewing its food stamp sales permit, Owens said.

“We’ve had several people coming in asking when it will be back up,” he said.

The national food stamp program is funded as a whole through the end of February. But if the shutdown isn’t resolved by the end of next month, it could threaten a program that provides food assistance to approximately 39 million Americans.

Last year in North Carolina, customers spent $2.14 billion at grocery stores and other food retailers in the state through SNAP, according to the N.C. Justice Center. Statewide, approximately 1.3 million North Carolina receive food stamps.

“The shutdown highlights the critical role that federal food assistance plays not just in people’s households but in communities at large,” Kennedy said.

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