A government shutdown Oct. 1 could immediately suspend or delay food stamp payments to some of the 46 million Americans who receive the food aid. The Agriculture Department said Tuesday that it will stop providing benefits at the beginning of October if Congress does not pass legislation to keep government agencies open. “If Congress does not act to avert a lapse in appropriations, then USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October and will be forced to stop providing benefits within the first several days of October,” said Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman for USDA. “Once that occurs, families won’t be able to use these benefits at grocery stores to buy the food their families need.”

USDA on Friday sent a letter to states asking them to hold off “until further notice” on starting the process that distributes benefits at the first of the month. The Agriculture Department declined to give details on why the automatic funding would not continue. In the 2013 government shutdown, food stamp dollars were not affected. FULL REPORT