By Tanya Gassenheimer, Youth Health Attorney
Updated Feb. 14
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has announced it will issue all SNAP assistance for March on March 1, 2019, no matter when in the month households usually receive their food benefits.
The recent federal government shutdown caused Illinois to issue its February SNAP assistance by January 20, 2019. With the government’s reopening last month, funding for March was secured.
Issuance of April and May assistance will depend on the federal government’s actions in coming days, but as of now, IDHS plans to issue April assistance between April 1 and April 10. It also plans to issue May assistance on households’ regular schedules. CCH will continue to monitor the situation and post updates.
SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides low-income households with a monthly amount of money that can be used only for groceries. The money is provided through an EBT or LINK card. For low-income individuals and families, SNAP can be the difference between housing maintenance and homelessness. For those already experiencing homelessness, receiving SNAP assistance in a timely fashion is a matter of basic survival.
Despite assurance of funding for March, the federal government shutdown’s impact on SNAP households remains significant. Due to the early issuance of February assistance, Illinois SNAP households experienced a gap of at least 39 days between receiving assistance in late January (for February) and receiving assistance on March 1 (for March). The law requires that no SNAP household experience a gap in issuance of more than 40 days. For more details, refer to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ latest update.
The monthly SNAP allotment factors in an average of only $1.40 per meal per person. Because this amount is so low, most SNAP households spend the full month’s assistance well before the month’s end, thereby making the effect of an extended issuance gap nearly impossible to manage. Advocates are expecting emergency food providers and community support systems to experience additional strain to their already-overstretched resources.
Even more problematic, states were not required to send a notice to each SNAP household explaining the early issuance of February assistance and the expected gap between receiving February and March assistance. It is therefore critical that advocates spread this information throughout their networks to help more SNAP recipients understand the changes to their accounts and plan accordingly as much as possible.
For those experiencing homelessness, please call CCH’s Law Project at 1 (800) 940-1119 for assistance with problems with SNAP benefits, including a failure to receive February benefits.