SALEM, Ore. — Due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to release food assistance funds early for the month of February, according to the Oregon Dept. of Human Services (DHS).
These benefits are commonly known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), though the name sometimes differs by state.
“We want to be clear that these are not additional funds that SNAP recipients are receiving, but an early issuance of February benefits,” stated Self-Sufficiency Director Kim Fredlund. “Those who typically see additional funds added to their EBT card the first week of each month will see their February money by January 20, rather than at the beginning of next month.”
There are currently more than 615,000 Oregonians enrolled in SNAP. According to officials, SNAP recipients should see their February assistance issued by January 20th.
DHS said that a notification letter is being sent to current SNAP recipients this week. Officials are asking those recipients to budget carefully — despite the early release, the funds are intended to cover food benefits through February, and do not reflect extra assistance.
"DHS is awaiting further direction regarding benefit issuance for January recertification that is completed or processed after January 15," the agency said. "The early issuance will proceed, even if the federal government shutdown ends prior to January 20."
Although Congress approved a Farm Bill by the end of 2018 that promised SNAP funding, those funds will not be approved until the partial government shutdown ends — meaning that there is a chance, however unlikely, that SNAP will be affected if the shutdown continues through February. Currently the SNAP program is only funded through these early-release payments for February.
A press release from the Trump Administration's USDA on January 8 implied that the early release of funds for February stemmed from an effort to push out hastily-acquired funding for SNAP before it could be allocated elsewhere — as a funding-starved federal government continues to grind through the shutdown.
“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the Administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a statement. “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well.”
If people are concerned about running out of SNAP benefits, they can contact 211Info to seek local food resources.