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Government shutdown aftershocks: Ohio announces another change in SNAP benefits distribution

Advocate says: 'This is a good start'
Posted: 11:09 AM, Feb 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-14 16:11:12Z
Food stamp recipients told to ration food for February

CINCINNATI — Ohio families that get government food assistance won’t have to wait as long as expected for their next benefits.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced Wednesday that households that are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will get half their March benefits on Feb. 22 and the other half on their assigned March issuance date.

Because of the partial federal government shutdown that ended Jan. 25, SNAP households got their February benefits early so they wouldn’t be delayed indefinitely.

In Ohio, February SNAP benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, were issued Jan. 16 .

Local advocates have been worried that the early issuance of February benefits would leave families hungry and struggling to get the food they need because of the long wait until their next distribution of benefits.

Tony Fairhead, the executive director of Childhood Food Solutions , has been asking federal lawmakers to consider an extra distribution in February, worth half of what families typically receive.

“This is a good start,” Fairhead said of the Ohio decision to divide up the March distribution of SNAP benefits.

Fairhead said the decision does take into account the fact that families would have had to wait more than 50 days, in some cases, for their next distribution of benefits.

But he said it doesn’t solve the problem.

“In a way, this only ‘kicks the can down the road’ – but it’s different from the normal expression that refers to government indecision – because this is at the expense of SNAP recipients,” Fairhead wrote in an email. “They received what they perceived as a government ‘windfall’ and now have to get through March on half rations. Eating is not as optional as government decision-making.”

State officials across the country worked to explain that SNAP recipients would have to make their early distribution of benefits last much longer than normal.

Advocates like Fairhead have argued that it is tough for families to go for such a long period of time.

A news release from the Ohio Department of Job and Family services said: “Ohio expects to return to the standard cycle of benefits issuance in April, barring another shutdown.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said in an emailed statement to WCPO that the “uncertainty surrounding SNAP benefits is one major example of just how harmful the shutdown was to hardworking Americans.”

“No parent should ever have to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to put food on the table,” Brown added.

Fairhead said he will continue to advocate for a full distribution of SNAP benefits in March, in addition to the 50 percent distribution Ohio plans to issue later this month.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.