SNAP Benefits Impacted By Federal Government Shutdown

MAYVILLE — The federal government shutdown has already impacted those in the county receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP benefits, and the affect could be even more severe if the stoppage continues.

On Wednesday, Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County Social Services commissioner and public health director, said one impact of the federal government shutdown was those receiving SNAP benefits received their February allotment early.

“In order for that to happen the local social services districts, which we are one, had to recertified those recipients,” Schuyler told The Post-Journal. “We were able to get that done last week. So SNAP recipients received a larger than normal amount of money on the EBT card because it’s not just January they received, but also their February payment, which came early.”

Schuyler said it’s significant for people receiving SNAP benefits that they understand they received a large payment because they were given more than just one month’s installment.

“It is important for people on SNAP to realize this wasn’t a bonus or it wasn’t additional funding. It was their February allotment,” she said. “No more is coming through February. Hopefully people will budget and utilize their funding wisely to stretch it out through February.”

When the federal government issued SNAP benefits for February early, it used the rest of the contingency funding they had for the program, Schuyler said. She said state officials across the country, including New York, have asked the federal government — specifically the U.S. Department of Agriculture who oversees the SNAP program — to make a decision on what will happen in March as far as benefit payments by the first week of February.

“Right now, we don’t know the options at the end of February,” she said. “There is no more contingency funding, at least none that we are aware of. We really don’t know what is going to happen. Hopefully the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) will be able to tell us what the plan is going forward.”

If the federal government shutdown does continue through February, there will be some options for people on the SNAP program, Schuyler said. One option would be for people to sign up for emergency assistance. However, she said there are different qualifications for emergency assistance compared to SNAP. She added if people lose their SNAP benefits and qualify for the emergency assistance Safety Net program, this will end up costing the county money. Schuyler said the Safety Net program is not a federal program, of which the county funds 71 percent while the state pays 29 percent.

“We did not budget for this. It would be a considerable cost for county government,” she said. “This will also add to the administrative burden with the emergency assistance applications that will need to be processed. We don’t have the staff to take care of all of those applications. We don’t have the staff and the staff we do have would have to work overtime, which would add on to the cost.”

The Women, Infants and Children program, which is run by Catholic Charities, is also funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and could be facing a similar situation as well, Schuyler said.

“The WIC (Woman, Infants and Children program) is under the same danger of running out of funds like the SNAP program,” she said. “Anyone who receives WIC supplemental funding that will be the last of that funding too. Many of the same families rely on both of these programs.”

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