- Due to the government shutdown, families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly known as food stamps) received their February payments nearly two weeks early, meaning they will have to make the money last for at least 5 weeks.
- A new report estimates that about 90% of SNAP households will experience a more than 40-day gap between SNAP payments.
- That means a gap in SNAP funding will hurt about 15 million low-income households.
Due to the government shutdown, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, no longer has funds to send its monthly payments to beneficiaries. Last week, SNAP recipients around the country began receiving their February paychecks days before the start of the month, throwing the payment schedule off the rails – and highlighting the possibility that there may not be any assistance offered in March.
A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that this derailment is affecting an estimated 15 million low-income households who may now experience a more than 40-day gap between food assistance issuances. The CBPP estimated that almost 60% of households will experience a gap of more than 45 days, and 25 per cent will experience more than a 50-day gap.
SNAP benefits can only be used to buy food at places like grocery stores, farmers’ markets and convenience stores, and are not meant to cover an entire month of food for most households. They’re given out at the beginning of each month and are sent to users through an electronics benefits transfer card. Depending on the state, SNAP benefits are either received on the first day of the month or disbursed within the first 15 days of the month, depending on factors such as a recipient’s last name, social security number or location.
No matter the schedule in which SNAP benefits are disbursed, CBPP found that households in all states will see gaps in funding for longer than 40 days. That means households might be forced to turn to savings, food pantries, or social networks in order to find other sources of food.
“Stretching that gap to 40 to 50 days or longer could create substantial hardship and hunger and sharply increase demand for local emergency food providers and other community social services providers,” said CBPP researcher Dottie Rosenbaum in the report.