SOUTHERN COLORADO – The government is back open and funded through February 15.
But county agencies are concerned about what could happen after that and whether they can handle the need, especially with food assistance..
There are a couple of issues right now.
The first is that families received their February SNAP benefits earlier this month in response to the shutdown.
If families don’t stretch it wisely, they could run out.
The other issue is if there’s another shutdown, April benefits could be compromised.
Things are starting to get back to normal at Department of Human Services offices in El Paso and Pueblo County.
Earlier this month, employees worked around the clock to make sure families got their February SNAP benefits.
Now, some families will have to wait before getting their March benefits.
“They wouldn’t receive their march benefits until the 10th of March,” explained Karen Logan with El Paso County’s Department of Human Services.
“So that’s almost two full months that they may have to go with one month’s worth of issuance.”
The benefits can be a necessity for some families.
“They are very critical,” said Duffi Frazier, who uses food assistance.
“Without that, you know, they don’t eat much.”
Stretching it is proving to be just as critical.
“We do hear from families that it’s hard,” said Logan.
So what if we go into another shutdown?
“When a shutdown happens, those benefits are generally available for 30 days after a shutdown begins,” Logan added.
“So we would be able to go into March but that puts April’s benefits into question.”
Food banks like Care and Share are continuing food distributions to meet the need.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty and hunger remains an issue,” said Care and Share’s CEO Lynne Telford.
DHS employees will be ready for round two, if it comes down to that.
“Next time, it won’t be as much of a culture shock for us, to kind of pull all hands on deck and get things done,” Logan assured.
Here are tips from El Paso County to stretch food money:
– Apply for free or reduced school lunches
– Hunt for sales and discounts when shopping
– Download the “My CO Benefits” app to track expenses