Earlier reports indicated the partial government shutdown would cause the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ration February 2019 SNAP benefits. However, on Jan. 8, the agency told states to request and issue the February allotments by January 20.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated they relied on a “provision of the just-expired Continuing Resolution (CR) which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration.”
This is good news for nearly 39 million SNAP recipients, 67 percent of whom are children, elderly, or people with disabilities.
It is important to remember that this early issuance is for February benefits. Thus far, the USDA has not announced what will happen with March SNAP if the shutdown continues. California officials sent their county directors this message:
We are waiting for federal guidance and will keep you informed.
The News Guard reported new SNAP applications will be accepted and processed throughout February. However, Oregonians needing to make changes to their case in January should be complete do so as soon as possible, these include, but are not limited to, Interim Change Reports or Recertification Applications. The state will handle these as normal. Should a SNAP household submit the required paperwork after January 18, their February benefits will be issued as soon as it is processed.
Budgeting warnings have been issued in states with large numbers of SNAP households such as California, Texas, and Florida, according to Politico. Since the March benefits may not be issued, February funds should be handled with caution.
Ohio issues SNAP between the 2nd and 20th each month, so many recipients will receive two months’ benefits at the same time. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks sent out fliers with the following notification:
These benefits are intended for use in February. You WILL NOT receive additional benefits in the month of February.
In addition to SNAP, other major Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) will have sufficient funding through February. However, “child nutrition programs, including school meals, and after-school programs have funding available to continue operations through March.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is prior year funding. The USDA began to make February funds available to the states mid-January.
The USDA also provides critical assistance to food banks throughout the United States, the elderly, and Tribal nations. Perdue indications they may continue to use grant funding used before the temporary government shutdown. Commodity deliveries will continue to these programs.
When opening the USDA website, there are two notices. The first advises readers that the site will not be updated due to the shutdown and it provides a link for furloughed employees. The second reads: “USDA to Reopen FSA Offices for Limited Services During Government Shutdown.” However, this only includes Jan. 17, 18, and 22, 2019.
When the partial shutdown began 30 days ago, numerous government agencies remained unfunded. The USDA was among them, as was the IRS. Americans were told nutrition programs would not be funded beyond January 2019. Furthermore, they were told that tax returns would not be processed while the debate about the border wall continues.
The Trump administration has backpedaled on these situations. Fortunately, for almost 39 million SNAP households one more month’s allotment was covered by the federal government.
Furthermore, taxpayers expecting refunds will not have to wait much longer than normal for their tax reports to be processed.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The News Guard: SHUTDOWN: Oregon food stamp program impact
Politico: States warn food stamp recipients to budget early benefit payments due to shutdown
Politico: White House reverses course on food stamp funding
USDA: USDA Announces Plan to Protect SNAP Participants’ Access to SNAP in February
USDA: USDA to Reopen FSA Offices for Limited Services During Government Shutdown
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