Metro-East News

Government shutdown could force an East St. Louis grocery store to temporarily close

If shutdown continues, this East St. Louis grocery store could close

An East St. Louis grocery store could be forced to temporarily close if the government shutdown continues.
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An East St. Louis grocery store could be forced to temporarily close if the government shutdown continues.

If the government shutdown continues, one metro-east grocer could be forced to temporarily close.

Save-A-Lot franchise owner Robert Bonner said his store at 10 Vieux Carre in East St. Louis is at risk since about 73 percent of its revenue comes from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients who use their benefits at the store.

Bonner said many of his customers have already spent their February assistance funds, which were distributed early as a result of the shutdown. If March’s benefits are cut off by the government shutdown, income at his and other grocery stores will plummet.

“I would have to shut my doors until our government, both Democrat and Republican, steps up and supports our constitution,” Bonner said.

His Save-A-Lot location receives new inventory every other day, but much of that product, including fresh meat and produce, will not make it to the checkout line if the shutdown continues.

Bonner isn’t the only local grocer in East St. Louis concerned about the ripple effects of the shutdown.

Sterling Moody owns and operates Neighbors’ Market at 1005 N. 15th St. in East St. Louis. After two years sitting vacant, the East St. Louis market reopened under new ownership as a full-service grocery store. Government funding for food deserts helped Moody establish his store.

The exterior of the Neighbors’ Market, coming to 1005 N. 15th St. in East St. Louis. Cara Anthony

Most of the customers at Moody’s store use credit and debits cards, but he’s concerned that SNAP recipients who visit his store will use all of their benefits at once in fear that it won’t be available to them later on.

“Thanks for running in and the rush,” Moody said. “But then when you fill back up, what are you going to sell?”

The government shutdown pivots on a budget impasse between Democrats and Republicans, who support President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 million to build a security wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats, who now control the U.S. House of Representatives, don’t want wall funding in an appropriations bill which would reopen the 25 percent of the federal government which is now shut down.

To entice Democrats to the negotiating table, Trump over the weekend offered to protections for immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and those in the country under temporary protection status. This would allow children and teenagers from Central America to apply for asylum. Trump also offered $800 million to improve care for immigrant families at the border.

The shutdown has left more than 450,000 federal employees without pay. An additional 380,000 employees in the federal government have been furloughed.

Bonner and Moody are concerned about what will happen if the shutdown continues.

“In 38 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Moody said Tuesday. “It’s going to be so bad in February. I don’t know. We’ll have to play it by ear.”

Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this article.

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