GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina food stamp recipients will get their February benefits early because of the partial federal government shutdown, state officials say.
Eligible customers of the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) will get all their benefits for next month on Jan. 20, 2019. They are normally available between the 3rd and 21st of the month.
The Guilford County Department of Social Services and NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) say they're working with retailers to try and prevent interruption of services to recipients.
Participants are told to plan accordingly since there will be no FNS benefits issued in February.
Despite the shutdown, DHHS says they have sufficient funds through February for the food stamp program, WIC and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
They also warn that if the shutdown continues, funding for these services could run out after February.
"We don't know what will happen in March, we do know that this allotment on January 20th will be the last until the government reopens," said Gregory Bush of Guilford County's Department of Social Services.
"You want to think about things like using coupons, you want to look for sales and you just want to keep those things in mind. And when you use those benefits really think about the essentials and those things you really need."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has told all states to issue February's benefits on or before Jan. 20.
The Trump administration is able to clear February's SNAP benefits early because the roughly $4.8 billion price tag has already been set aside through the expiring government spending bill.
However, if the shutdown runs until March, the United States Department of Agriculture would have to dip into reserve funds. Right now, it only has $3 billion in contingency money -- not enough to cover the whole month.
"I don't know how we are going to budget right but we are going to just have to hang in there but it's going to be challenging, it's really going to be challenging," said Joana Deshield, a Greensboro mom who uses SNAP benefits.