Ohio warns food stamp recipients after government shutdown confusion

The federal government shutdown is causing confusion over an early distribution of food stamps for 1.4 million Ohioans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture told states to send the February benefits out by Jan. 20 because the money would be unavailable later because of the partial shutdown.

Ohio added the February benefits to the electronic benefits cards on Wednesday. But that triggered confusion over when the allocation must be spent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

“February benefits do not have to be spent by Jan. 20. There is no change to the spending/usage requirements of these benefits. These benefits are intended to ensure recipients can shop for food in February,” Ohio JFS said in a written release. “Families are advised to plan accordingly and make any food assistance they receive in January stretch as long as possible.”

“That money has to last until the end of February,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “And then we will all hope they figure out how to open the government back up because if they don’t, there probably will be no March benefits.”

Whaley urged citizens to call the White House and their representatives in Congress to ask for the re-opening of the federal government.

Kaiser Health News said that 40 million people rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The benefits for February cost the federal government approximately $4.8 billion, according to Kaiser.

SNAP is an important safety net program for low-income families and half the beneficiaries are children, according to Ohio Association of Foodbanks. Federally funded, the program provides roughly $165.7 million a month to Ohio families. The benefits average $121 per person in Ohio.

June data show there were 123,654 SNAP recipients in Butler, Champaign, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties receiving a total of $15.1 million in benefits.

Staff writer Cory Frolik contributed to this report.

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