Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be issued early again this month in an effort to help those stuck between last month’s government shutdown and the first of the month.
Last month, the longest government shutdown in American history prompted DHS to issue February’s SNAP benefits in late January to prevent recipients from going without benefits. Debra Martin, with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ communications office, said the move helped close the gap, but resulted in a 40-day gap between SNAP disbursements.
“They’ve had to stretch their benefits further than usual and that was another concern that we had,” Martin said. “We hoped to make it a little easier for folks.”
Now, Martin said, everyone will receive SNAP benefits on March 1 to keep them from waiting longer and the typical SNAP issuance schedule will resume in April.
“If they normally receive it on March 1, they’ll get it on March 1,” Martin said. “If they normally receive it on the fifth or the 10th of the month, they’re still going to get it on March 1.”
The early SNAP issuance in January prompted some concerns that grocery stores would be flooded by a large wave of shoppers, but Martin said that did not happen. DHS worked directly with the Oklahoma Grocers Association, giving the organization a heads up about the new temporary schedule.
“[SNAP recipients] know that when those benefits get put on their card, they don’t have to run out all at one time,” Martin said. “Those benefits are going to be good for however long.”
According to DHS, 12,558 Carter County residents receive SNAP benefits. James Rosson, director of the Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma, said this February marked a particularly busy period for the center.
“We were way over last year,” Rosson said. “We’re well over 100 a day. That’s way up, and it’s not common for February.”
He said throughout the month, they saw between 150 and 200 visitors a day, which was 75 to 100 more than usual. The center opened its doors to federal employees impacted by the shutdown last month, waiving paperwork to make sure anyone who needed help got it quickly.
“There’s not many federal employees in Ardmore, so there was not much impact there,” Rossson said.
Rosson said the abnormally high numbers were most likely a result of the gap between SNAP disbursements. He said the center’s back stock of supplies did decrease, but not to a worrying degree.
“I figure since it’s coming out on a Friday, that will help us,” Rosson said. “We’re hoping for a normal end of the month.”