Shutdown could lead to “shut down” for food stamp program

WINSTON/MARION - As of press time, the partial government shutdown has entered week number four.
Those receiving food assistance benefits, better known as food stamps, have been worrying what the shutdown means for them concerning this assistance.
Barry Spear, public information manager of the Alabama Department of Public Health, has announced that those currently receiving assistance will get an “early issuance” no later than Sunday, Jan. 20.
For individuals eligible currently for February, the early issuance will be their normal February allotment amount.
Recertifications or new applications should still get February benefits after the Jan. 20, date.
“If people are expecting to get benefits in February, they most likely will,” Spear said.  “The federal government is not guaranteeing anything beyond the early issuance (Jan. 20), but feels comfortable to handle applications afterwards.”
Spear mentioned there is a contingency fund which is not being used for the early issuance.
Spear said to remember these are not additional funds and that people are just getting their February benefits earlier.
“They should hang on to them until they do need them,” Spear stated. “They’ll be there for 12 months.”
As of now, it will be “business as usual” after the Jan. 20, date, Spear said.
“They haven’t told us (anything),” Spear said referring to what happens after February. “They’re confident an agreement will be reached before then.”
Winston County averaged 1,137 food assistance cases per month in 2018 with $319,845.75 in benefits awarded on average per month. The total amount spent for Winston County in 2018 totaled $3,838,149.
Marion County averaged 1,945 cases per month in 2018 with $532,366.92 in assistance averaged per month. The total amount spent for Marion County in 2018 totaled $6,388,403.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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