The longest government shutdown in history was much more than an inconvenience for the roughly 40 million people who rely on food stamps.
The United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, coordinated with states around the country to send out February benefits before the 21st of January, several weeks earlier than normal. The move was possible because of a provision in the short-term continuing resolution, which helped fund the program for another 30 days after the onset of the impasse.
But no one knew what would happen next.
After 35 days of the shutdown, Trump announced a deal Friday to temporarily reopen the government — without the $5.7 billion in funding he had demanded for a border wall. Before that, however, families that rely on food stamps were unsure where their money would come from — and the programs that help them navigate the system didn't know what to say.
"I just try to be careful. I try not to overspend," said Natalie Tejada, who relies on $547 in SNAP benefits every month to stay afloat. "Sometimes I have to put my foot down when it comes to the kids and what they want."
This segment originally aired January 24, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.