January 17, 2019
WASHINGTON – State agencies are reminding food stamp recipients that their early February benefits payment will need to last a lot longer, Politico reports. With the partial government shutdown stretching on, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had to release the February benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients this week. This means, there will be no benefit payment loaded on SNAP cards in February.
USDA is asking that retailers help spread the word with SNAP customers who may not receive notification of the early issuance or know that the February benefits have been uploaded early. States with many food stamp recipients on their roles, such as California, Florida and Texas, are urging them to budget carefully to make it through next month.
“Unless the federal shutdown is resolved, benefits for March MAY NOT be available,” read a message sent by California officials to county welfare directors to pass along to recipients. “We are waiting for federal guidance and will keep you informed.” It costs around $4.8 billion to fund a single month of SNAP benefits—which are funded by the federal government and distributed by the states. The USDA isn’t discussing what other funding options are out there if the shutdown continues. “Americans should have access to food, and we will use all available legal options to make that happen,” said Brandon Lipps, administrator of the agency’s Food and Nutrition Service and the department’s acting deputy undersecretary of food, nutrition and consumer services. USDA provided the below language for retailers to share with SNAP customers who will need to stretch the funds through the month of February:
February SNAP Was Delivered Early! Customers who use SNAP EBT should keep in mind that February food dollars will be added in the middle of January this year. This means that you may have two months’ worth of food dollars on your account this month. No food dollars will be added in February. The early food dollars are meant to help with next month’s food. We encourage our SNAP-participating customers to plan their purchases carefully so that they have money available to meet their food needs.