Sept. 6 (UPI) — A government watchdog on Thursday said the Trump administration violated federal law by continuing to issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits during the 35-day government shutdown earlier this year.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits payments in advance or excess of available appropriations, by making February SNAP payments.
“While USDA had some or all of a $3 billion contingency fund available during the lapse in appropriations, it did not charge its obligations for February SNAP benefits to that appropriation,” the GAO said.
The USDA instead paid the February benefits to states early through Section 110(b) of the Continuing Appropriations Act, a federal law allowing certain payments within 30 days of the start of a federal government shutdown.
The GAO said the USDA’s actions were improper and that it should report a violation of the Antideficiency Act.
“Based on our statutory construction analysis and USDA’s historical pattern of obligations, we conclude that section 110(b) did not authorize USDA to obligate amounts for the early payment of February SNAP benefits,” the watchdog said.