Tuscarawas County, Ohio - County residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can count on at least one more month of benefits before funding for the federal program runs out at the end of this month.
Tuscarawas County JFS Director David Haverfield says his office will be issuing February SNAP benefits early to the roughly 9,500 county residents enrolled in the program. After that, benefits could be on hold until the government reopens and approves funding for the program.
"That’s the situation that we’re in. The government will need to come up with some funding, and how that may happen, I don’t know. Because it’s an entitlement benefit, people will eventually get the benefits they’re supposed to receive, the question is just when, and certainly with something like food, getting three months worth of food in the fall is not going to be helpful to you if you need to eat now, so that’s certainly our concern," he says.
Haverfield says they will be issuing next month's benefits sometime between this Friday and the end of the month. They’re encouraging recipients to plan accordingly so those benefits last them through February.
"The biggest concern for me is when people get those benefits, they’re going to just use them and not realize that those have to last them through the month of February, so we want people to be very careful about that," he says.
Haverfield says the agency will continue to process pending applications but he says people need to get their paperwork turned in right away if they want to be eligible for February benefits.
“Sometimes people have verifications or documents they need to send us, we would encourage them to do that because if we can approve those before the end of the month, we can go ahead and get people a benefit for February," he says. "We’ll still take applications past the end of this month. The problem is just going to be until the government authorizes some funding for the SNAP program, we’re not going to be able to issue any benefits to those people.”
Haverfield says they’re hoping funding is restored to the program before benefits come due again for March, but he says the agency has made the local food pantries aware of the situation in case that doesn’t happen.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV