(ST.JOSEPH,MO)The government shutdown will soon be hitting closer to home for nearly 7,000 people in St. Joseph. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly referred to as food stamps will be making some changes to how monthly stipend are distributed during the shutdown.
"February benefits are being provided early from the state, so individuals who would have received SNAP benefits for February received them a little bit early," Chad Higdon, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank, said.
SNAP recipients will receive their February payments by the end of January, but they will have to make the payments last. Due to a lapse in funding from the partial government shutdown, funds are no longer secured to support the food assistance program.
Whitney Lanning, executive director of Community Action Partnership (CAP) said local and regional service agencies haven’t been given much notice for how this will impact assistance programs like SNAP.
"There really isn't a lot of information on what will happen after the month of February, if the government shutdown does go that long, which hopefully it won't," Lanning said. "We are all in the same situation. We don't know how long it's going to last. We don't know how it's going to affect different programs and how it's going to affect a lot of different services.”
Lanning said CAP will continue to provide assistance through their Skill-Up program.
“Through our skill-up program SNAP recipients can receive a slough of benefits. We can help them get into certifications, into training,” Lanning said. “We can help them get into GED classes, we can also help address any barriers that they or their family has with getting off government assistance, and getting higher wage jobs.”
Higdon said Second Harvest is working with volunteers in pantries across their 19 county service area to make sure families are aware of other resources if SNAP funds are suspended.
"We are trying to get word out to make sure that all of our agencies know that there could be a challenge as we get later in the month and really the uncertainty beyond that through March and what is going to happen with the federal government shutdown," Higdon said.
In Missouri the maximum benefit a family of four can receive based off their income is approximately $640 a month.
“The uncertainty, just the individuals not knowing if this is going to be it for awhile, and not knowing what is going to happen,”Higdon said. “It’s just creating a lot of uncertainty and questions about what’s going to happen next. We are just trying to do as much as we can with the resources.”
According to the Missouri Family Support Division, Missouri currently ranks 4th in the nation for the number of citizens receiving food stamps, with 308,000 people receiving some form of SNAP benefits. In Buchanan County 12,520 people currently supported by food stamps, including 6,808 individuals in St. Joseph.
“Anybody that’s struggling whether it’s with the government shutdown or with SNAP benefit changes, or some of these other things that are impacting families that there are going to be resources out there to help people when they need it,” Higdon said.
For more information on the status of your SNAP benefits, contact the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division at 855-373-4636. For information on food pantry hours and programs with Second Harvest call 816-364-3663. For additional information on the CAP Skills-Up program, contact Whitney Lanning at 816-233-8281.