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Montana to distribute SNAP food assistance early in wake of government shutdown

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 19:54:30-05

HELENA – The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says it will work to distribute February SNAP benefits on Thursday, about two weeks early.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are normally loaded on Montana EBT cards the first week of the month.

The early distribution follows recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the wake of the partial federal government shutdown.

“I think it’s based on the funding that’s been authorized at the federal level, and so they’re concerned about continuing operations as usual,” said Jamie Palagi, the Human and Community Services Division administrator.

Because of the shutdown, officials are encouraging benefit recipients to space their food purchases out over the month, rather than making a single, larger purchase.

“The most important thing to remember is that this is not extra money that’s showing up on their electronic benefit card,” said Palagi. “It’s money that has to be stretched, clear ’til the end of February. And so budget accordingly, and develop meal plans that will help you do that so you’re not hungry at the end of the month.”

The federal government has told states they can still issue benefits until funds are no longer available.

“That’s the question on everybody’s minds, is what’s going to happen next?” said Palagi. “I don’t have an answer for that. We’re receiving guidance. We just received this guidance, actually, last week, and have been taking quick steps to make this happen for the people of Montana. When we know, you’ll know.”

According to Palagi, about 117,000 Montanans benefit from SNAP each month.

The state says if you’re currently in the SNAP program and are eligible for February benefits, you do not need to take additional action.

Anyone who is applying for or renewing benefits is encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible.

If you would like information about budgeting and making meal plans, click on this link. 

Story by Evelyn Schultz, MTN News