Montana issuing February SNAP benefits early due to shutdown

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February food benefits will be distributed early to thousands of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients in lieu of the ongoing partial government shutdown, according to an announcement Tuesday by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Recipients are normally issued benefits during the first week of every month. However, department aims to load next month’s benefits onto “electronic benefit transfer” cards on Jan. 17.

Along with the early issuance, state officials urged recipients to space out their food purchases appropriately, considering they will not receive additional funds in February.

“It is vitally important for people to understand that this issuance is early, not extra,” Department Director Sheila Hogan said.

According to the state department’s announcement, current recipients who have already been determined eligible for February do not need to take any action to receive their benefits. In addition, clients who are in the process of renewing or applying for benefits are encouraged to submit their documents as soon as possible.

Montana pays more than $12 million per month to 117,000 recipients, according to a report.

The plan to issue early benefits was announced by the United States Department of Agriculture last week, which stated that since the lapse in appropriations from the shutdown, the department has actively reviewed options for funding February benefits without needing additional appropriations from Congress.

To guarantee the benefits, the Department of Agriculture will rely on a provision of the recently expired continuing resolution, which “provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration.” The resolution expired Dec. 21.

“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the announcement.

Sonny said the plan fulfills both aspects the department’s motto to “‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.”

According to the announcement, states have until Jan. 20 to request and implement early issuance which will then allow benefits to be made available to participants.

The federal government said states can issue benefits until federal funds are no longer available. However, officials are unsure as to how long the funds will last. Tuesday marked day 24 of the shutdown.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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