With February SNAP Benefits Expected Early, States Urge Recipients to Budget Food Purchases

January 16, 2019 AT 7:15 AM

By Helena Bottemiller Evich

State agencies are warning food stamp recipients to carefully budget their grocery purchases once they receive their February benefits weeks earlier than normal due to the partial government shutdown.

The Department of Agriculture's backup plan for paying out Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits amid the lapse in funding means it could be 40 days — or longer, in some cases — before additional money is added to recipients' benefit cards. There is also no guarantee about when nearly 39 million low-income Americans will next receive another payment to help them buy groceries.

States that have large populations of food stamp recipients — including California, Texas and Florida — are already warning recipients that they need to make February benefits last, as the early payments are issued this week. For some recipients, the accelerated timeline will result in them getting their February benefits a full month earlier than normal.

"Unless the federal shutdown is resolved, benefits for March MAY NOT be available," read a sample message California officials sent to county welfare directors to help spread the word to recipients. "We are waiting for federal guidance and will keep you informed."

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