This afternoon Rhode Island Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins held a press conference to discuss pending impacts to SNAP benefits and other safety net programs in light of the federal shutdown.
The SNAP program supports nearly 15% of Rhode Islanders, and is a critical safety net program ensuring low income families have food on their tables. In December alone, $21.5M in SNAP benefits were issued to more than 93,000 households, supporting more than 150,000 Rhode Islanders. SNAP benefits are paid in full by the federal government and are at risk of running out if the government shutdown continues into March.
RI Department of Human Services have been in regular contact with federal workers at USDA, who administer SNAP and despite being furloughed, are doing everything they can to help us figure this out. Despite their best efforts, they are understaffed and cannot legally issue benefits that have not been funded by Congress.
Last week, Human Services Commissioners across the country and their staffs worked with the federal government to gain clarity about the impact of the shutdown on this program.
There are a few key updates important for RI DHS customers to know:
First, February benefits have been preserved. Based on the most recent federal guidance that we will be able to provide February benefits to all current customers while also processing new applications into the month of February for people who have recently applied or who will be submitting applications next month.
Second, current SNAP recipients will receive their February benefits which will be issued early on or before January 20th. It is important that customers know that this is their February benefit. They will not receive an additional distribution on February 1st and should budget carefully to ensure this allotment lasts throughout the month of February.
Lastly, for customers who have recertifications due in the month of January, we ask that you help us by submitting it early so we can process it with the early issuance date on or before January 20th. We will have extra staff available by phone, through our call center at 1-855-697-4347, to complete recertification interviews between 8:30am and 7pm today and Tuesday this week. While we encourage customers to get their recertification processed early this week, we will be able to process recertifications for the remainder of the month for a regular February 1st disbursement.