Protecting SNAP and Child Nutrition From Appropriations Lapses
 USDA had $3 billion for SNAP at the start of fiscal year 2016 (because the FY 2015 SNAP appropriation provided a “benefit reserve” of $3 billion, which remained available through September 30, 2016). SNAP costs are currently running about $6 billion per month, so that amount would fund approximately half a month’s worth of SNAP benefits. In the last two shutdowns, SNAP benefits have not been at risk: during the shutdown of the mid-1990s, the Agriculture Appropriations bill had been enacted, and in 2013 USDA drew on authority from the 2009 Recovery Act, but that authority has since expired.
 Section 32 dedicates 30 percent of annual customs receipts to farm sector support. In recent years, this has generated around $9 billion annually, with approximately $8 billion of that amount transferred to the child nutrition programs. The transferred funds are commingled with annually appropriated funds and used to reimburse schools and other entities for meals provided through the child nutrition programs. Because Section 32 has a permanent appropriation, the funds can be transferred to the child nutrition programs without an annual appropriations law. The amount transferred has generally exceeded the cost of operating the child nutrition programs for the first quarter of the fiscal year, although it would run out under a more protracted shutdown.
 Except for crop insurance (see footnote 4), the other Agriculture Committee entitlement programs, such as farm price supports through the Commodity Credit Corporation and conservation programs, fall into this category. Their funding derives from permanent law, not annual appropriations, so they are not at risk for either type of funding lapse. Other entitlement programs funded outside the annual appropriations process include civil service retirement; Medicare; DoD’s Medicare-eligible retiree health care; unemployment insurance; deposit insurance through the FDIC; the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation; the Children’s Health Insurance Program; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; the child care entitlement to states; the refundable portion of the child tax credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college, and the premium (health insurance) tax credit.
 We exclude appropriated entitlements from Table 1 when there is a looser relationship between beneficiaries and funding, and the harm caused by a shutdown or inadequate funds consequently is lower. Some of these annual appropriations are accrual payment or other subsidies paid to a retirement or health trust fund where there is no risk of trust fund inadequacy even if the annual appropriation is delayed or insufficient.
We also exclude crop insurance from Table 1 because payments go to the insurance companies to cover part of the claims they pay; the companies have a substantial ability to cover for the federal government during a shutdown or if funding is inadequate, under the understanding that they will be made whole later.
 The advance appropriations for appropriated entitlements provided by the Labor - HHS - Education subcommittee cover the first three months of the next fiscal year. The advance appropriations provided by the Military Construction - Veterans Affairs subcommittee for most veterans’ entitlement benefits will start with the FY 2016 appropriations bill and cover all of the next fiscal year, in this case FY 2017. Note also that ever since the FY 2010 appropriations bill, the veterans’ health care system, which is not an entitlement as such, likewise receives full-year advance appropriations and so is not at risk of a government shutdown. As explained below, an advance appropriation for the first part of the fiscal year is almost as effective as a full-year advance appropriation in protecting against the threat of a shutdown.
Temporary, stop-gap appropriations bills (known as continuing resolutions or CRs) are generally first enacted by October 1, the start of the fiscal year, and often extended one or more times if the political or logistical logjam preventing enactment of full-year appropriations continues. Shutdowns can come either if the first CR is not enacted by October 1 or (in the continued absence of full-year appropriations) if an extension of the CR is not enacted when the initial CR expires. The biggest risk to SNAP and child nutrition occurs if there is a shutdown on October 1. Later shutdowns entail less risk because, ever since FY 2004, temporary CRs have included a provision effectively extending the funding for most appropriated entitlements for 30 days beyond the CR’s general expiration date. For instance, if a general shutdown started November 5 after a first CR expired, entitlement payments due on or about December 1 would still be paid. The shutdown (which would seriously disrupt non-entitlement programs) would have to last a month or more before putting such entitlement funding at risk. For this reason, the main shutdown threat to appropriated entitlements occurs at the beginning of October because a shutdown at that time would mean both a lack of regular appropriations and the absence of the provision granting an extra 30 days of funding for most entitlements.
 The SNAP authorizing law, Section 18(b) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, instructs the Secretary of Agriculture to reduce SNAP benefits across the board if he or she determines that appropriations are not sufficient. This provision has never been used; Congress enacted supplemental appropriations in the late 1970s and 1980s and since then appropriations have always been sufficient.
In the current political environment, however, supplemental appropriations are a rarity. If appropriations proved inadequate, across-the-board cuts could be necessary. (Amendments to Section 18 since its initial enactment have left the benefit-reduction mechanism unclear, raising the likelihood of litigation blocking an attempt to scale back benefits.) In any event, it would be far preferable for the appropriation to provide sufficient funding so that low-income families avoid a benefit cut and other stakeholders (such as food retailers, debit card processors, and program administrators) avoid the disruption and confusion that the need to trigger across-the-board benefit cuts would cause.
 The such-sums appropriations for these programs vary in form but not substance. For example, such-sums funding for payments of federal annuitants’ health and life insurance benefits, retirement pay and medical benefits for retired public health service officers, public safety officers’ benefits, black lung disability benefits, and vaccine injury compensation payments are simple such-sums appropriations covering the entire fiscal year. In apparent contrast, Medicaid, SSI, foster care, and child support enforcement, among other programs, receive a definite appropriation (a specified dollar amount) intended to cover most of the fiscal year as well as a such-sums appropriation for the last few weeks or months of the fiscal year. The two approaches are really the same. If the definite appropriation cannot stretch for the whole fiscal year, the such-sums funding will take effect in time to guarantee that total funding for the year will be sufficient even if caseloads or benefit levels prove to be higher than initially expected.