The state Human Services Department has announced it will distribute February benefits under the SNAP (food stamp) program beginning Jan. 17, an early date on account of concerns money won’t be available on account of the continuing federal government shutdown.

Said a release, with emphasis supplied:

This is not an additional payment, so DHS is encouraging participants to budget accordingly for food purchases. Benefits will not be issued again until March, if funds are available from the federal government at that time.

In Arkansas, 151,283 households with 333,980 people qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They received $40 million in benefits each month to purchase groceries. The average benefit is $250 nationally and goes mostly to children, the elderly and disabled.

Food assistance is financed through the US Agriculture Department. Last week, all four of Arkansas’s Republican members of the House voted against legislation to continue appropriations for the USDA.

Advertisement

As a result of the shutdown, many states are moving up payments. But as Politico noted:

The funding lapse has raised concerns about how long major federal nutrition programs, including SNAP and school meals programs, can continue to operate without a spending fix from Congress.

Funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides staple foods, infant formula and breastfeeding support to millions of low-income pregnant mothers and their young children, also has sufficient funding for February, administration officials said this week. The program serves about half of all babies born in the United States.

Call your congressman. Not that they give up a rip if they’re from Arkansas.

Money is available now, the USDA explains, thanks to a provision of an expired continuing funding resolution that provided a month’s worth of money should something like this happen. After this month, who knows?