COLORADO SPRINGS – Spend carefully. That is the message from El Paso County Department of Human Service to the roughly 65,000 people locally who rely on federal food assistance. February’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments went out early, and the US Department of Agriculture currently does not have additional funds designated for the program due to the government shutdown.
“We’re not able to guarantee anything after the February benefits that we’ve already issued,” said Karen Logan of El Paso County DHS.
She explained people ordinarily have SNAP funds loaded onto their EBT cards on the day of the month that matches the last digit of their Social Security Number. Since all of the cards in Colorado were loaded Thursday, those recipients who typically receive funds on the 10th day of the month may have to wait more than seven weeks until their March benefit arrives. Of course, that assumes that Congress reopens the government and allocates funds for these benefits.
Logan hopes our local SNAP recipients will understand that this early distribution is not an additional benefit.
“These are funds that they normally wouldn’t have gotten until February,” Logan said. “For some people, we’re talking about several weeks they’re going to have to make it stretch even though February is a short month.”
She also wants people who are thinking of applying for SNAP to do so quickly.
“They need to be in, interviewed, and all of their information must be into us so that we can determine their eligibility by the end of the day on January 29th,” Logan said.
The changes in benefit distributions have already shortened deadlines for SNAP recipients who were scheduled for a routine review in February known as a re-determination. That deadline expired Tuesday and the County reports that some 1,471 people did not complete the review in time to continue receiving benefits next month. That number is close to the average number of SNAP recipients who do not complete re-determinations.
The food bank Care and Share is already experiencing an unseasonal jump in demand.
“This was not expected by any of us,” said Shannon Price, Chief Alliance Officer for Care and Share. “We have seen an increase in calls, we have seen an increase in our partner agencies looking for more food, and we as an organization are prepared.”
The group is asking for financial donations and volunteers to help them meet the growing demand. Price explained that even small donations of less than $5 can make a big difference. Thanks to buying agreements, every dollar donated to Care and Share can help buy eight meals for a family in need in the community.