Delaware SNAP benefits issued early again due to government shutdown

Volunteers load food into cars at the Food Bank of Delaware’s mobile food pantry in Georgetown, Delaware on Friday. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Volunteers load food into cars at the Food Bank of Delaware’s mobile food pantry in Georgetown, Delaware on Friday. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Some Delaware food stamp recipients will get March payments early as a result of the federal government shutdown that ended in January.

The state typically distributes money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ﹘ formerly known as food stamps  ﹘ on a set schedule that ranges from the second to the 23rd day of each month, depending on the recipient’s last name.

When the government shutdown threatened the delivery of February’s benefits, Delaware and other states issued February’s funds by Jan. 20.

Even though the shutdown is over ﹘ and indications are another will be averted ﹘ some residents aren’t scheduled to get next month’s funds until March 23, a 64-day gap. Delaware Division of Social Services director Ray Fitzgerald said all March benefits will be distributed by March 5 to reduce that gap.

“The USDA asked us to minimize the interval between issuances as best we could,” Fitzgerald said. “If we issue benefits on March 4 for March, that would reduce the stagger. The most anybody would be without benefits would be like 46 days.”

The state is working with retailers to spread the word about the change in schedule.

“To make sure the retailer community is able to share this information with the people who are shopping in their establishments, we’re going to be placing signage in our offices as well as doing a mailing to all of our clients to explain what they can expect over the next few months,” Fitzgerald said.

When February’s benefits were issued in January, the state warned recipients to budget their funds and to save February’s money to spend this month.

“It is imperative to do what we can to make sure individuals and families who receive food benefits are not going hungry because benefits are being issued on different days,” said Kara Odom Walker, Delaware Health and Social Service secretary. “We know the children, seniors and people with disabilities who make up the majority of SNAP clients depend on these benefits each month.”

The average household benefit in Delaware is $238 per month. The state distributes nearly $16 million in SNAP benefits every month.

The state has been working with the Food Bank of Delaware and other groups to get extra food into the pantries of those in need. Friday, hundreds showed up in Georgetown for a mobile pantry event hosted by the Food Bank.

A second mobile pantry is scheduled for this Friday at 11 a.m. at the Calvary Church, 1141 East Lebanon Road in Dover.

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