LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As the government shutdown continues, the uncertainty over food stamp assistance grows.
However, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sent out a memo to states this week letting them know that SNAP benefits will be available for February. They will be delivered to recipients’ EBT cards at the end of January.
Tomiko Townley, the director of advocacy for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said that will take some planning for families to make the benefits last through the month of February, especially since what comes next is still uncertain.
“March is an unknown,” Townley said. “And I think that it is totally reasonable for families to be nervous or scared about the future. But I think if we can take it one month at a time at this point, that’s what really everyone is doing.”
According to the hunger alliance, about 40 percent of recipients fully rely on SNAP benefits for their groceries.
The USDA recently released a draft rule that could change that number. After the measure did not make it in the 2018 Farm Bill, the agency proposed a rule that would impose additional work reporting requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents, between the ages of 18 and 49, in order to receive benefits. It would not apply to the elderly, disabled or pregnant women.
“It makes those requirements much harsher, and it will result in hundreds of thousands of SNAP recipients losing their benefits,” Townley said. “We’re not talking about these lazy people who are just living off the government dime. We’re talking about people who are doing everything they can, and in order to successfully find and keep work, they probably need access to food.”
In a press release, Secretary Perdue argued the change is meant to restore the SNAP program to what it was meant to be: “assistance through difficult times, not lifelong dependency.”
“Long-term reliance on government assistance has never been part of the American dream,” Perdue said. “As we make benefits available to those who truly need them, we must also encourage participants to take proactive steps toward self-sufficiency. Moving people to work is common-sense policy, particularly at a time when the unemployment rate is at a generational low.”
The proposed rule has not yet moved through the process to public comment due to the shutdown.
If you have questions or concerns about your SNAP benefits, contact the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance here.