Shutdown could delay SNAP benefits in February

Shutdown could delay SNAP benefits in February
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The partial government shutdown could cut into food stamps relied upon by millions of families sooner than expected, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Department of Agriculture has said it has enough funds to pay out recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, through February.

But the report estimates that administrative maneuvering could mean that 15 million households, which covers 30 million individuals, could have to wait 40 or more days between benefits, at least a 10-day delay. 

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More than half of SNAP recipients would have to wait 45 days, and some 8 million people would have to wait as long as 50 days between benefits.

That could spell trouble for needy families, which typically front-load their SNAP usage at the beginning of the month and exhaust it well before the month is through.

The reason for the delays is administrative reshuffling that led to February benefits going out early, on Jan. 20. Even a plan to reopen the government could leave some SNAP beneficiaries with a major delay before their next benefit comes through.

“Even if the shutdown is resolved in time for the government to provide full March SNAP benefits on time, the much longer than usual gap between benefit receipt for February and March will cause some households whose budgets already are extremely tight to face heightened difficulties affording food, as they await their March benefits,” the report said. 

“In turn, this will place additional strain on the emergency food network and other community resources, which already are stretched,” it continued.