By: Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA Director of Government Relations
Last week, President Trump reached a deal with Congress to reopen and fund the federal government through February 15, 2019. This is a continuing resolution (CR), which is a type of appropriations bill that offers stopgap funding when a regular, annual appropriations bill is not passed. The CR that was signed into law last week provides appropriations for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for the entire month of March, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not yet confirmed its strategy for distributing these benefits. Due to a law requiring that SNAP customers must not go longer than 40 days without receiving SNAP benefits, USDA will be working with individual states to determine how each state must best distribute benefits based on their normal staggered distribution schedules. SNAP customers will not receive additional benefits for the month of February; benefits that were loaded onto electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards by January 20 must last until the end of February, so customers are encouraged to budget their benefits appropriately.
The CR also provides USDA with the ability to fund SNAP through April, should another government shutdown occur after February 15. The CR contains language that would allow USDA to implement another early issuance strategy for the distribution of April benefits. In this scenario, April benefits would need to be distributed by the states to SNAP customers by March 15. However, USDA has not yet announced if it would take this approach if the government shuts down post February 15.
During the shutdown, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) was unable to accept, process, or provide updates on SNAP retailer applications. At this point in time, there are no pending applications. FNS is working to resume normal operations but requests that retailers bear with them during the coming weeks. Operations are expected to be back to normal within the first or second week of February.
NGA will continue to provide our members with updates regarding the distribution of SNAP benefits during the upcoming months. If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.