Virginia SNAP recipients to receive benefits early due to shutdown

Food assistance program recipients in Virginia will receive their February food benefits early because of the federal government shutdown.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps eligible food-insecure and low-income families receive food assistance across the country. The Food and Nutrition Service works with state agencies, nutrition educators and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to help individuals apply to the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

The change will affect all SNAP recipients across the state scheduled to receive their benefits during the first week of February, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Program enrollees received benefits on Thursday. Those who have already been determined eligible for the program can expect to see their February benefits automatically loaded to their SNAP electronic benefits transfer cards, according to the release.

About 14,010 people living in the Historic Triangle are currently food insecure, according to a study by Chicago-based nonprofit Feeding America. The U.S Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service defines food insecurity as those with uncertain access to adequate food due to household-level economic and social conditions.

“Families having access to food and children going to school without being hungry is a basic and critical need that transcends politics,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner Duke Storen in the release. “The SNAP program ensures food security for many of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and we are pleased to be able to provide benefits to our clients for the month of February.”

The state agency encourages all those who have either recently filed new applications for benefits or are in the process of renewing their benefits to submit all documents to their local Department of Social services as soon as possible.

“This early issuance of food benefits is still intended to sustain households throughout the month of February,” said Toni Blue Washington, director of benefit programs at the Virginia Department of Social Services. “SNAP recipients are encouraged to proactively plan their food shopping for the month of February using these early funds.”

Although program recipients will see their monthly benefits come a few weeks early, the status of future benefits beginning in March will remain unknown until further action is taken by Congress and President Trump, according to the release. EBT cards remain active and unaffected by these changes, the release states.

SNAP recipients are encouraged to contact their local department of social services or the Enterprise Customer Service Center at 1-855-635-4370 with questions about their benefits. SNAP recipients may also call 211 or visit 211virginia.org for more information.

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