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Gov't. Shutdown Means Early Checks for MN SNAP Recipients

State and county workers in Minnesota are working hard to make sure the state's 500,000 low-income people receive their February food stamp benefits early, despite a partial federal government shutdown.(Twenty20)
State and county workers in Minnesota are working hard to make sure the state's 500,000 low-income people receive their February food stamp benefits early, despite a partial federal government shutdown.(Twenty20)
January 15, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. — As the partial federal government shutdown drags on, the United States Department of Agriculture will pay February's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds starting in late January rather than on the regular schedule.

Colleen Moriarty, executive director with Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said the early payment should not be confused as supplemental money.

"The payment that people will receive in January is not an extra payment,” Moriarty said. “That's actually your February payment, and so that money is meant to be used in February."

According to Moriarty, state employees have been working round-the-clock to issue the advance SNAP benefits. About a half-million Minnesotans get help from SNAP with monthly benefits of about $134 for an individual, and $465 for a family of four.

Anyone with questions should contact the Minnesota Food HelpLine at 1-888-711-1151.

Moriarty said her organization also has reminded workers at Minnesota's food shelves to step up and help where possible.

"Try to be open longer hours, be responsive to any needs that people have,” she said. “So we just want to make sure we get it out into the hands of people who need it as quickly as we can."

Moriarty said the partial shutdown of the federal government may mean Minnesota workers who did not receive a paycheck last Friday also are accessing the state's food pantries, many for the first time.

"Well, we know for one thing that there are laid-off federal workers, so we know that there are more people who need assistance at the food-shelf level,” she said. “Even if - take the SNAP equation out - we want to make sure that they're served and they're served well."

Federal officials say there is enough funding to cover food stamp costs through February, but beyond that the stability of the program is unclear.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN