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Food Stamp Recipients To Receive February Benefits Early To Avoid Government Shutdown Woes

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- One out of eight Pennsylvanians are on food stamps or SNAP, making this government shutdown -- the longer it goes on -- a direct threat to anti-hunger programs from the now-closed U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It is the backbone of how we make sure that people in this country have enough to eat," Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday. "It's not enough. It is the most important part of our food safety net."

Regal says many SNAP recipients are full-time workers at low wages, and the average dollar amount received each month on an EBT or electronics benefits transfer card is $120 a month.

With this government shutdown, 1.8 million Pennsylvanians would lose their food stamps in February, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a loophole so that the February benefits could be awarded in January.

"February benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, recipients will be disbursed on Jan. 18, so this coming Friday, and available on Jan. 19," said PA Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller.

Miller says people may be surprised to see more money on their EBT cards this weekend, but she warned, "It is not a bonus payment. It is not extra money."

"It will be the only benefit payment that SNAP recipients will receive for the month of February," Miller told KDKA's Jon Delano.

In other words, budget the money carefully because once this money is gone there is no more for March, unless President Trump and Congress end the shutdown.

"Most low income people budget their money way, way better than affluent Americans do," Regal said. "What we are concerned about is that people will be very confused by a change in the norm."

Every recipient will receive notice about this, but with the shutdown, says Secretary Miller, this was the only way to get people food stamps for February.

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