The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, one of many federal programs left in limbo by the government shutdown, will continue uninterrupted through February.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will issue February SNAP food benefits by January 20, slightly earlier than usual. DHS Adult and Family Services, the division that oversees the program in Oklahoma, is staying in close contact with USDA despite the shutdown.
The United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, plans to use reserve funds to pay for the benefits. DHS Communications Manager Debra Martin said the benefits will be renewed more quickly due to a provision of a now-expired continuing resolution, which allowed USDA to fund operations within 30 days of its expiration.
“SNAP customers can use the benefits any time after January 20, and will need to be extra careful about their food budgets so the benefits will last through February,” Martin said.
Oklahoma DHS Director Ed Lake stated via press release that he approved voluntary overtime for SNAP employees so they could continue processing renewals and applications through the weekend.
“This was welcome news to all of us at DHS as I know it will be for more than 610,000 Oklahomans who depend on this program to help feed their families each month,” Lake said.
Carter County had a monthly average of 8,834 SNAP recipients last year. Food banks throughout the state are preparing to offer extra assistance to people who rely on SNAP as well as federal employees who have been impacted by the shutdown.
The Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma is one such center. Executive Director James Rosson said he understands SNAP recipients’ anxieties.
“I honestly don’t see them allowing this funding to lapse, but I’d feel scared if I was on it,” Rosson said.
He said SNAP recipients make ends meet by visiting centers like his, but both programs are necessary to make it to the end of the month.
“We provide about two weeks’ worth of food,” Rosson said. “SNAP, for them, can be just about the rest of their month. It’s supplemental, just like us.”