Due to continuing ripple effects from the 35-day partial government shutdown, families will be forced to stretch their SNAP benefits as much as 61 days.
According to numbers recently released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, almost all SNAP recipients are expected to face a more than 40-day wait between issuance of February benefits and dispersal of March benefits.
The extended wait between SNAP benefit dispersal is due to early release of February funds without a planned adjustment of March benefits being released early.
SNAP Benefits Will See Continued Impacts of 35 Day Shutdown
Families who qualify for the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have already received their benefits allotment for February. Most funds were dispersed on or around January 20. The next dispersal of funds is expected on or about March 1, with individual release dates being left at each state’s discretion.
The typical wait time between monthly SNAP benefits is about 28 to 31 days. Without an adjustment, families will need to make one month of food stamps last an additional 12 to 33 days, based on when they received February’s allotment and when they are scheduled to get their March benefits.
Military Feels Impact of Shutdown through SNAP
This wait could have a direct impact on veterans and troops who qualify for SNAP. Approximately 1.4 million veterans and thousands of active duty troops are currently enrolled in SNAP. Many are also supplementing their SNAP benefits with items from food pantries and food banks.
The entire Coast Guard, as well as many federal employees and contractors, went without pay even while continuing to do their assigned work. Many Coast Guard families faced uncertain financial futures as a result of the lack of pay. All told, approximately 42,000 Coast Guardsmen went without pay during the shutdown.
During the shutdown, many Coast Guard families were forced to rely on food pantries and apply for assistance to make ends meet. Many also received donations of food and other staple items, like diapers or toiletries. Donations were often crowd sourced via social media and virtual donation websites.
Members of the Coast Guard should have received back pay by January 31. However, there is the possibility of another shutdown beginning on February 15 should Trump and political leaders fail to reach a compromise.
Extended Waiting Time Between SNAP Dispersal Due to Shutdown
Benefits for February were advanced in January. This decision was based on the extended partial shut down that appeared to be without immediate resolution. As of press time, the US government has fully reopened pending continuing negotiations between President Donald Trump and members of Congress.
However, there is no clear plan for an early dispersal of March benefits as of January 30. There are no additional benefits for February. SNAP recipients will need to stretch their food stamps or EBT funds until the March funds are distributed.
They will need to make their benefits last at least two weeks and as much as an extra month, based on when they received February’s benefits and when the March dispersal is scheduled. Most families will need to make their benefits stretch at least 40 days, with some families looking at 50 or more days between SNAP dispersal.
This extended wait comes at a time when food banks and pantries are already feeling the strain of the shutdown impact. With many federal employees and contractors going unpaid, many turned to local food pantries to feed their families. Federal contractors will continue to feel the impact of the shutdown as they go without back pay.
Food pantries and food bank networks in locations with a high level of federal employees or near Coast Guard duty stations have seen an increase in use over the last two months. A food pantry has popped up at the Coast Guard Academy to serve students, instructors, staff and families stationed there.
The head of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, acknowledged the increase in food pantry use by unpaid Coasties in an interview with CNN.
“But ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members,” Schultz said.
Food banks and food pantries rely on donations from corporations, businesses and individuals in order to secure food and fund distribution. An increase in need, such as during the recent shutdown, is not always met with an untick in donations or volunteers. This creates strain and causes limited food availability.
SNAP Helps Families with Food Stability
SNAP benefits allow qualifying families to purchase food items at grocery stores and farmers markets. Without continued SNAP benefits, families may need to turn to other sources to feed their families.
In order to qualify for SNAP, families need to meet income and demographic criteria set by the USDA and their individual state of residence. Benefits may only be used to purchase food items to consume at home and food-producing seed or plants.