FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2019
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391
Montana to issue February SNAP food benefits early due to partial government shutdown
Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials announced today that February food benefits are being provided early to thousands of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients due to the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.
DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said the department will work diligently to load benefits onto SNAP recipient Montana EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards on January 17, 2019. Normally, benefits are issued to recipients throughout the first week of each month.
Montana and other states received guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture instructing them to issue benefits early because of the shutdown. The guidance is part of a plan the USDA announced last week.
As a result of this change, recipients are encouraged to space their food purchases out throughout the month of February, rather than making mass purchases.
“It will be vitally important for people to understand that this issuance is early, not extra,” Hogan said.
DPHHS also offers the following guidance:
- Current clients who have already been determined eligible for February do not need to take any action to receive their benefits.
- Current clients who are in the process of renewing or applying for benefits are encouraged to submit their documents as soon as possible.
After January 17, DPHHS will continue to process new applications and will issue benefits through daily issuance as applications are approved. DPHHS is also communicating the early issuance of February benefits to various partner organizations such as local food banks, grocery stores, and social service agencies. DPHHS stresses that the early release of benefits does not constitute additional funding to individuals, but simply an early issuance of February benefits.
Recipients can call the Public Assistance Helpline at 1-888-706-1535. To check their account balance, recipients are encouraged to call the Montana Card Customer Service Help Desk at 1-866-850-1556.
The federal government has alerted states that they can issue benefits until federal funds are no longer available, but it is unclear from the federal government when that will occur. Hogan said the early issuance of February benefits will proceed, even if the federal government shutdown ends prior to January 17. DPHHS will continue to monitor federal action and its impact on SNAP.