BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) reported it has completed the process of issuing of February benefits to Louisiana food stamp recipients were completed late Wednesday evening.
“All households that were certified eligible for February SNAP benefits on or before Monday have now been issued those benefits,” said Sammy Guillory, DCFS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Family Support. “The cases that remained pending on that date, and any applications we have received since then, will continue to be processed according to the regular schedule for February benefits.”
About 50,000 cases, including new applications and ongoing cases that required an annual redetermination of eligibility or six-month simplified report, continue to be processed, officials added.
DCFS said it loaded February benefits totaling more than $88.5 million onto the EBT cards of 337,927 households. These are not extra benefits, but an advance of February’s benefits. Recipients will not receive additional benefits in February.
More than three weeks into the government shutdown and halfway through January, many on a limited budget are worried about what lies ahead.
While January and February are already funded for recipients in Louisiana, future months are still up in the air. Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were told they would receive their February benefits early, on or before Jan. 20, said the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
On a federal level, the USDA promised benefits would last through the end of February. Thursday, Jan. 17 marked day 27 of the shutdown.
Food stamps are still being accepted at Louisiana vendors despite an ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.
“It can be challenging because you’re already stretching your resources thinner,” said Neighbors Federal Credit Union financial planning expert, Kim Chapman. “Unfortunately, a lot of times, we have our resources today and we only want to spend them today, but recipients are going to have to actually take out a pen and paper and look at what meals look like for this week and next week.”
Chapman recommends stretching resources by purchasing off-brands and “taking stock of what you need versus what you want.” She also suggests buying non-perishable food in advance and buying produce as-needed.
Concerns grew on social media that the shutdown would impact food stamp availability following reports of an Indiana grocery store denying customers' EBT cards. Store management learned the denial was because of the government partial shutdown.
“Every state is handling the early issuance differently, in accordance with their own procedures, schedule and client considerations,” according to DCFS in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, we are seeing some misinformation about Louisiana SNAP benefits as a result of people sharing information from other states.
DCFS in Baton Rouge, which handles SNAP, said the department still has funding in the short term for its programs and services, even with the shutdown. The department says the federal government has told states they can continue to issue benefits until federal funding is no longer available. It has not been made clear by the federal government when that may happen. Louisiana plans to continue accepting applications for SNAP until funding runs out, at which time, benefits will be suspended until more information is received from the federal government about the shutdown’s impact on program funding.
Twenty-five percent of the government is still unfunded, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and Women, Infant and Children (WIC).
One in five Louisiana residents is using SNAP benefits, while the national average is one in eight residents, according to state-by-state data. Almost 37 percent are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities.