States warn food stamp recipients to budget due to government shutdown

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States warn food stamp recipients to budget due to government shutdown. Watch the report from Gray Hall on Action News at 4:30 p.m. on January 17, 2019.

Friday marks Day 28 of the government shutdown - the longest in history, and there is no end in sight.

Both sides are still refusing to budge on funding a barrier along the southern border.

As the stalemate drags on, federal workers are struggling to make ends meet without a paycheck. But now the impact is extending to families not employed by the government.

Carmen Rodriguez, a Camden County Freeholder and Liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services, has a warning for anyone who uses the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. She says don't blow through the money.

"It is very important for people to understand that this is an early payment. You are not going to get more money later," Rodriguez said. "This is you are getting your February allotment for Food Stamps today."

The partial government shutdown is impacting funding for the program, and SNAP recipients are receiving February funds weeks early.

The benefits are typically given out monthly on a plastic card and works like a debit card for families to buy food. Struggling households must now be extra cautious and go back to budgeting 101.

With the shutdown, no federal funds are guaranteed for March.

"You have people out there that will spend it early and then they won't be able to function the next month," says Terri McGriff of Newcastle, Delaware. "So, it's a good thing and a bad thing. I am budgeter, so it's good for me."

For McGriff's family the early money will be put to good use. But for furloughed government workers, like Demita Vancliff, there is no SNAP money. She was turned down for service because of her husband's income.

"My husband does work and he makes pretty good money, but we live off of two incomes - we budget off of two incomes. We don't have extra. We have two daughters that are in college," she said.

States in our area are urging those eligible for assistance to make the money last until at least the end of February.

Laura Wall is the Executive Director of Coalition Against Hunger. She explains some of the questions she's been fielding by concerned furloughed workers and citizens.

"We have gotten all kinds of calls. We've gotten calls from SNAP receipts, from furloughed workers wondering whether or not if you qualify. There is a lot of concern and a lot fear. I wish we had better news but we don't really know what's going to happen beyond February," Wall said.

So, be careful. This is only advanced payment - not extra money. Experts are stressing you to spend cautiously and budget.

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