Department of Public Health and Human Services officials announced that February food benefits are being provided early to thousands of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. Human and Community Services Division Administrator Jamie Palagi says this is being done because of the partial federal government shutdown.

“Under the partial government shutdown, they had funding allocated, but that needed to be spent on SNAP benefits by January 20, 2019,” Palagi said. “They issued guidance telling states to go ahead and process for February and get February benefits out early, but those benefits have to be out by January 20, 2019.”

Palagi said DPHHS will try to load benefits onto SNAP recipient Montana EBT cards on January 17, 2019.

“We issue benefits monthly, usually at the first of the month, and they stagger across the month,” Palagi said. “If somebody new comes into our office and we determine them eligible, we issue them benefits daily as well. I think the most important thing is to realize that this is not extra money, it is just early money. It is important to budget and meal plan so that they can stretch those dollars through the month of February.”

According to Palagi, the federal government has alerted states that they can issue benefits until federal funds are no longer available, but it is unclear from the federal government when that will occur.