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Local

March SNAP benefits coming early

Move another result of recent government shutdown

Illinois food stamp recipients will get their March benefits early to reduce a timing gap caused by last month’s federal government shutdown.

Benefits will be loaded into all accounts March 1, the state’s Department of Human Services announced Wednesday. Normally, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, get their monthly benefits at staggered intervals during the first 2 weeks of the month.

The early March disbursement aims to ease benefit gaps that may have resulted when Illinois’ 1.8 million food stamp recipients got their February benefits weeks early in the midst of the government shutdown.

State officials worried that people might not realize those benefits, loaded into accounts by Jan. 20, would have to last them through February, and food pantry executives braced for increased demand if people found themselves running out of food between disbursements.

SNAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ensured funding for February benefits during the partial government shutdown by employing a temporary workaround that required it to disburse those benefits early. Some 38 million low-income people nationwide use SNAP to buy groceries.

After the 5-week shutdown ended Jan. 25, March benefits were funded through a federal stopgap budget. April and May SNAP benefits will depend on a new federal budget deal being reached, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services, which distributes SNAP benefits in the state.

The agency plans to issue April benefits between April 1st and April 10th. May benefits will be on the regular schedule.

Another shutdown could begin Saturday if President Donald Trump doesn’t reach an agreement with Democrats over border security.

The changes do not affect the amount of benefits people receive, just the timing.

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