PNS Daily Newscast - May 21 , 2019 

The DOJ says former White House counsel Don McGahn does not have to testify. Also, on our Tuesday rundown: “Stop the Bans” protests over extreme abortion laws; education a hot topic in the Bay State and guess how many adults have tried marijuana?

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Oregonians Get Hunger Relief with Release of SNAP Assistance

About half of Oregon SNAP recipients' benefits ran out very early in February, because they'd been delivered two weeks early due to the government shutdown. (kelycuba13/Twenty20)
About half of Oregon SNAP recipients' benefits ran out very early in February, because they'd been delivered two weeks early due to the government shutdown. (kelycuba13/Twenty20)
March 1, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – Federal food benefits are going out to everyone who typically receives them today, bringing relief to folks across the country who got last month's assistance early during the government shutdown.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars for February were distributed two weeks early, meaning more than 600,000 Oregonians who receive them needed to stretch those dollars out over five to six weeks.

Dawn Myers, Oregon Department of Human Services SNAP program manager, says families typically run out of benefits around the third week of the month – but that happened sooner during February. Misunderstandings caused other complications as well.

"We were hearing stories from some families who had used up their benefits before February even arrived, because there were some stories that retailers weren't going to be accepting benefits in February,” says Myers. “And so, there were some households that were concerned."

About half of SNAP recipients had run out of assistance by Feb. 1, according to Myers. Benefit delivery is usually staggered over the first nine days of the month, but this month all recipients will get them today, March 1.

Myers says food pantries and other community resources picked up the slack when assistance ran out.

Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank, says through a lucky coincidence, pantries had an influx of food in February.

The federal government has been purchasing U.S.-grown farm products that were moving through the food-bank system to support growers affected by tariffs. Morgan also notes that food pantries fill the SNAP gap throughout the year, because SNAP benefits aren't enough to sustain people throughout the month.

"Some of these folks would have been folks we would regularly see anyway, just maybe earlier in this month,” says Morgan. “And some of these folks – this would have been a first time for them to be using food assistance because of that particularly long period of time."

Morgan says food banks and other charitable organizations help fill the gap, but the federal food assistance program does the heavy lifting. For every meal the Oregon Food Bank Network provides, SNAP provides 12.

She says too many folks already struggle to feed themselves and their families.

"They don't need any more hurdles,” says Morgan. “They don't need their lives to be made any more difficult than it currently is. And so, it's just such as shame that the government shutdown put one more obstacle in the way of these families being successful."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR