During most government shutdowns, the USDA can distribute food stamp benefits for one month after the shutdown begins. For the current shutdown, that was January’s benefits. Courtney Hawkins, Director of Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services (DHS) explained, as the shutdown stretches into its fourth week the USDA is moving to distribute February’s benefits early.
“USDA has authorized states to issue the February benefit within that one-month period as a way to preserve their contingency funding in the event that the shutdown continues,” Hawkins said.
The nearly 15% of Rhode Islanders who rely on the SNAP program will get their February benefits by January 20th. Hawkins said it’s important that SNAP recipients understand that this is their February payment, and that they will not receive another payment on February 1st.
“We’re certainly concerned that people will not understand that this is their February benefit and not have enough money to put food on the table throughout the month of February,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said DHS is also looking into ways to help federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay.