BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Tennessee has been found to be only moderately affected by the continued government shutdown, placing 23rd on a list of most affected states by a study from Wallethub, with Williamson County being one of the least-affected areas in the state due to its relative wealth, lack of major federal parks, and comparatively low number of food stamp recipients.
The shutdown, which began on December 22, is entering its 17th day as of Monday, and is currently the third longest of its kind in United States history.
Approximately one million Tennessee residents, or roughly one in six, were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2017. More commonly known as food stamps, the SNAP program is a federally funded and managed food assistance program that assists low income households.
While funding for the program has already been allocated for January across the country, only $3 billion has been appropriated for the month of February, meaning some SNAP recipients may see severe cuts, including those in Williamson County. If the shutdown were to continue past February, millions of families could see a complete halt of food stamp assistance.
Of all counties in Tennessee, Williamson County has the single lowest percentage of SNAP recipients, with just 2,428 households enrolled in the program, or 3.4 percent of total households. For comparison, Davidson County has more than 39,000 households enrolled in SNAP, or 14.6 percent of total households, with Maury County at 5,410 households, or 16.4 percent of total households.
A spokesperson from the Tennessee Department of Human Services stated that as of Monday, no SNAP recipients have seen a halt in their food aid, though that could be liable to change if the shutdown continues past February.
Of all cities in Williamson County, Franklin has the highest number of families potentially affected by the shutdown, with 1,261 households, or 4.7 percent of total households, enrolled in SNAP. Fairview has the second highest amount with 386 households, or 13.4 percent of total households, enrolled in SNAP, with Brentwood having the least, at just 63 households, or half a percent of total households, enrolled in SNAP.
Natchez Trace Parkway, a national parkway maintained by the federal government that stretches from Southern Mississippi to Nashville, is currently unmaintained by the National Park Service, with the park staff offices currently closed and unavailable for comment.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also has closed due to the shutdown, meaning Williamson County residents won’t be able to contact the department in any capacity, nor can the department perform any audits. With tax season fast approaching in late January, a continued shutdown could spell trouble for residents receiving their tax returns as well.
A long list of other effects, including health services, overseas travel and Social Security payments, also could be affected if the shutdown continues past February. For now, all Williamson County residents can do is wait and watch as the federal stalemate continues in Washington.