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SNAP benefits come early amid shutdown

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MEDINA — With the federal government shutdown reaching an unprecedented 26th day today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing February’s allotment of food benefits early.

Many recipients will receive additional funds on their cards starting today.

The early disbursement has caused some confusion locally, said Debbie Kiley, eligibility administrator for Medina County Job and Family Services.

Residents have to realize what they are receiving is not a bonus or additional funding — it is February’s benefits a few weeks early, according to Kiley.

“Consumers have to budget accordingly,” Kiley said. “This isn’t extra money. This is for two months. There is definitely some confusion. They think it’s double benefits. That’s not true.”

There are just over 10,000 Medina County residents that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits, according to figures from Job and Family Services.

SNAP is the program commonly known as food stamps. The funds are issued on electronic benefits transfer cards, similar to debit cards, and can be used to purchase food at stores across the county. Paper coupons are no longer used.

Kiley said recipients might have two months’ worth of food dollars on their EBT this month. No food dollars will be added in February. The early food dollars are meant to help with next month’s food.

Customers could next get additional food dollars in March, depending on the resolution of federal funding.

Kiley said her office is keeping in touch with Ohio Job and Family Services on a daily basis, trying to “keep a pulse” on any new information.

“This is new for us,” she said.

Kiley said she has been through government shutdowns before, but they ended quickly and had no impact on the SNAP program.

“It’s a little unnerving for our agency,” she said. “What do we do next?”

She said if consumers apply for benefits in February, she’s not sure what will happen, assuming the shutdown continues.

Kiley said the average SNAP benefit is $70 to $150 per month. It varies by income and household size.

A household must meet certain requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

She said before consumers head to the grocery store, they should check their balance by calling the number on the back of their EBT card, (866) 386-3071.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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