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Government shutdown may affect SNAP benefits, other programs; Money may run out in March



Courtney Hawkins, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (RI DHS) held a press conference today to let people receiving SNAP benefits, a federally funded food assistance program, know that the government shutdown in Washington is putting the program at risk.

Calling the shutdown, “unprecedented,” Hawkins said that though there is funding to get the program through February, there is no guarantee that there will be SNAP benefits available for March.

The February benefits will be dispersed in late January, not on February 1, and it is important, said Hawkins, that people receiving the benefit budget accordingly. The late January disbursement is for February, and there will not be additional money available in February. See the flyer near the bottom of this post for information about the dates that need to be met to qualify.

Also at risk are the cash assistance program and child care subsidies, but these are smaller programs and considered less vital.

Prompted by a tweet from State Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), I asked if Rhode Island could be reimbursed for the cost of SNAP benefits in March should the state choose to fund it. Hawkins said there are no guarantees on state reimbursement, and that just the SNAP benefits alone will cost $22 million.

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The shutdown, said Hawkins, “reminds us that the safety net for a contingency in this state is our food bank and food pantry programs… I always encourage people to ensure that those local organizations and of course the Rhode Island Food Bank has the resources that they need, so that in a crisis we can call on them to help us.”

Courtney Hawkins
Q and A

Flyers will be posted where SNAP recipients are likely to see them, and they will be translated into Spanish and Portuguese.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.