February SNAP benefits will be distributed early due to government shutdown

The Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services announced yesterday that they are rushing to get February SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits out this week—nearly a month ahead of when benefits are usually distributed—at the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is to avoid missing a funding cutoff of January 20 due to the ongoing government shutdown.

Nearly one in five Hawaiʻi households relies on SNAP to meet monthly food budget needs. More than half of these households are working families with children. The early distribution could result in major disruptions to household food budgets in the event that benefits run out before the next scheduled distribution in March. SNAP users are being cautioned to budget accordingly. In addition, should the shutdown continue, it is unclear if the full benefit will be available in months going forward.

FAQs

1. I’m a current SNAP recipient. What can I expect during the shutdown?

You will see February benefits automatically loaded onto your EBT Card by Sunday, January 20. You should be aware that this is not additional funding, but is an early disbursement of February funds. Currently, there is no funding provided for March, although that may change as the situation evolves (either the shutdown ends or Congress could appropriate emergency funds for SNAP).

2. I’ve applied for SNAP, or am trying to renew. What now?

If you have already applied, please submit your verification documents as soon as possible to the Department of Human Services. If you have already been determined eligible for February, you do not need to take any action to receive your benefits. Renewing clients, please submit your verification documents as soon as possible.e

3. What can I do if my benefits run out?

If you need help, you can reach out to your local food bank using the links below, or call 211 from wherever you are for help locating food distribution sites and other resources that may be helpful to you and your family.

3. Can retail outlets apply to accept SNAP and for USDA’s free equipment program during the shutdown?

Retailers may still fill out applications, but there is no one at the agency to process their requests, so expect delays until the government re-opens and perhaps longer.

4. What is the impact of the shutdown on other food assistance programs, like WIC the Child Nutrition programs?

The USDA was able to allocate funding for WIC through February, and Child Nutrition Programs through March. Even with the allocation, concerns remain that not all WIC agencies will receive funding, and that there are not enough non-furloughed USDA staff to pass along funding to state WIC agencies.

5. What is happening with the 2018 Farm Bill implementation?

Farm bill implementation is at a standstill with the shutdown and will be further delayed by Secretary Perdue’s desire to move NIFA out of DC.