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USDA directs DHS to issue February SNAP benefits early

Ponca City Now - January 15, 2019 12:39 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to issue February SNAP food benefits to eligible recipients by Jan. 20, 2019, even as the partial federal government shutdown continues.

“This was welcome news to all of us at DHS as I know it will be for the more than 610,000 Oklahomans who depend on this program to help feed their families each month,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We have had numerous discussions with USDA officials over the past few days concerning details of this plan and coordinating our approaches. I have authorized voluntary overtime for our SNAP workforce that has been working through the weekend processing SNAP case renewals and applications already in the queue.”

“We are working under a critically short deadline to make all of this happen,” said DHS Adult and Family Services Director Patrick Klein. “It is definitely ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that we provide as much of February benefits as possible by Jan. 20.

“SNAP recipients who are already receiving benefits will automatically receive their amounts for February on their EBT cards by Jan. 20,” Klein said. “It is important for our customers to understand, if they receive their benefits early, they will not receive any other SNAP benefits in February so they should budget accordingly.

“Once these early benefits are distributed, the USDA plans to use limited SNAP contingency reserve funds to pay for benefits beyond Jan. 20. We have been instructed to continue normal operations, taking and processing applications and will provide benefits until we receive further notification from the USDA,” Klein said.

Typical distribution dates for SNAP benefits are staggered on the first, fifth and tenth days each month to prevent temporary shortages of food products and allow retailers time to restock their shelves.

Ron Edgmon, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Grocers Association, encourages SNAP recipients to use their benefits as normal and not rush out to grocery stores all at once, even though funds will be available early.

“This will enable your local supermarkets to keep products flowing and not encounter shortages for any period of time,” said Edgmon. “We have association members in every county in the state and we work diligently, along with our wholesalers and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, to make sure the consumer has fresh safe food on the counters when shopping your local store.”

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and its more than 300 partners are ready to step in and provide food assistance for SNAP recipients and anyone affected by the shutdown.

“The ripple effect of the shutdown is being felt now and will only worsen as it continues,” said Katie Fitzgerald, CEO of the Regional Food Bank. “At the Regional Food Bank, we see firsthand how SNAP helps Oklahomans living with hunger.”

SNAP recipients who want to check their case status and eligibility are encouraged to go to www.okdhslive.org.

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), is 100 percent federally funded and administered in Oklahoma by DHS. Benefits are loaded onto Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and can only be used at USDA-approved grocery retailers.

More than 800,000 Oklahomans received SNAP benefits in SFY 2018. Most are children, seniors and people with disabilities, including disabled veterans.

More than $844 million worth of food was purchased in Oklahoma by SNAP customers at more than 3,500 retail grocery outlets statewide, including large retailers and small grocery stores in rural communities.

Quick Facts about SNAP – State Fiscal Year 2018

  • $4.00 – Average daily benefit per person
  • $1.33 – Average benefit per meal
  • 37% – of households had an elderly or disabled member in the house
  • 48% – of households had children younger than 18 in the home
  • 27% – of households had one working adult in the home
  • $1,242 – Average monthly income for households with earnings
 

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