Food stamp recipients are getting their benefits for the month of February early because of the government shutdown. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has told states to pay out benefits on or before Jan. 20.
The lump sum payment plan is very different than what normally happens.
Each month, SNAP beneficiaries get their benefits on a different day over the course of the month. That way, the over 3 million Floridians, or about 15 percent of the state population, don’t all get benefits on the same day.
Some get them on the 1st of the month, others the 2nd, all the way through the 28th of the month.
This change creates two big concerns.
First, do SNAP beneficiaries know about this change and will they be able to budget for the month of February?
James Dunbar, associate director of outreach for Metropolitan Ministries, is concerned about just that. “Many families do rely on their SNAP disbursements, and if you get it early, you’re going to spend it early.”
Typically, Metropolitan Ministries sees a dip in foot traffic after the holiday season, but that hasn't happened. Dunbar believes the number of visitors is only going to increase.
“At a certain point of not being paid, even if you had reserves, you’re still going to need to feed yourself, feed your family," he said. "So I think there is definitely going to be a need there, even for those who prepared their households for this.”
The second concern: Are grocery stores and food banks ready for this SNAP lump sum benefits day?
We reached out to a number of EBT-friendly grocery stores like ALDI and Publix to ask if they are prepared.
“We do a really good job logistically of being sure that our shelves are stocked throughout the year," said Brian West, spokesperson for Publix. "It’s gotta take something like Hurricane Irma for us to have a true impact. So yes, we’re ready. We’re ready for those customers to return shopping with us.
ALDI also sent us a response:
"ALDI is committed to supporting the communities we serve by accepting SNAP EBT benefits that provide essential assistance with food and nutrition to those who need it. We are closely monitoring the partial shutdown of the federal government, knowing it could impact our customers and their loved ones. Given the early release of benefits for February, we encourage our customers who participate in the SNAP program to ensure they are budgeting their food needs for the month of February and that they utilize the resources available to ensure they have the latest information on benefit distribution."
While grocery stores are seemingly ready for the SNAP change, food banks like Metropolitan Ministries are concerned.
“This is uncharted territory for us in terms of being able to pick up the difference during the month of February,” said Dunbar.
For those looking to help, Metropolitan Ministries is always looking for donations. The items most needed right now are:
- Boxed cereal
- Canned beans
- Canned meat
- Canned vegetables and soup
- Peanut butter
Additional items that are needed include:
- Baby food (formula/cereal/jars)
- Bottled water
- Boxed Jell-O pudding
- Jelly and jam
- Pasta and pasta sauce
And donation locations are below:
Metropolitan Ministries Tampa Campus
2101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33602
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Metropolitan Ministries Pasco Campus
3214 U.S.19, Holiday, FL 34691
9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday
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