Georgians on food stamps should prepare to do some extra budgeting of their SNAP, or food stamp, benefits. The partial government shutdown is causing the state to release February’s benefits this week.
The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services says next month’s SNAP benefits have already been added to electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards and should be available by the morning of Jan. 15 at the latest.
“We have been working with the USDA to make sure that families that are owed benefits in the month of February are getting their benefits early,” said Jon Anderson, Chief Deputy Division Director for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week it had only 30 days from the start of the partial government shutdown to issue SNAP dollars for February and states had until Jan. 20 to request the funds.
“Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a release.
Georgia officials stress the early payments are not additional benefits and that SNAP recipients should budget accordingly. There will be no benefits payments in the month of February.
A similar message is coming from the Food Marketing Institute, a grocery store industry group that works with chains like Kroger, Publix, and Wal-Mart.
The group is also advising its grocery retail members to prepare for an uptick in SNAP customers in the coming days.
“We absolutely can expect in some areas a large uptick in sales,” said Hannah Walker with the Food Marketing Institute. “The good news is that our members really do know their customers and know their SNAP sales, so those guys are preparing.”
Walker says, on average, SNAP purchases account for about 4 percent of a grocery retailer’s sales, though that varies from market to market.
More than 700,000 households in Georgia receive the average SNAP benefit of $268 a month.
As the partial government shutdown rolls on, there’s still no word on the fate of the SNAP benefits for March.