As the partial federal government shutdown continues, ripple effects are being felt by more than federal employees. Monday the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced that qualified Arkansans will receive their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits earlier than usual.
The money that allows low-income participants to purchase food is released monthly, and February's allotment will be distributed on January 17, according to DHS spokeswoman Marci Manley.
"These are the steps that we're taking to get February benefits to individuals. It's not an additional payment, so we are encouraging SNAP participants to budget accordingly for their food purchases because benefits wouldn't be issued again until March if funds are available from the federal government at that time," Manley said.
The early release of funds was directed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that distributes money to the individual states.
The Arkansas Foodbank is one of the organizations in the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance that provide healthy food to many of the state's SNAP participants. CEO Rhonda Sanders says preparations are being made in case the shutdown stretches into February.
"We supply food every day out to 33 counties, and other food banks do the same in their areas, but we're recognizing that the shutdown will most probably – if it doesn't end soon – cause us to have to escalate the amount of food we provide, who we provide it to, how we provide it, all of those things," Sanders said.
The food banks are working to identify and add furloughed federal employees to the list of those they serve. According to the latest numbers from DHS, over 330,000 Arkansans receive SNAP benefits.