Texas health officials say they’re going to provide next month’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits early due to the federal government shutdown.
"Texas and other states received guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture instructing them to issue benefits early because of the shutdown," Texas Health and Human Services Commission said in a statement issued Sunday evening.
SNAP, which used to be called food stamps, serves more than 3 million Texans.
“We are relieved that the government shutdown won’t affect benefits for SNAP recipients in February,” Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, said. “SNAP helps 3.6 million low-income Texans feed themselves and their families. Any disruption in this assistance would create immediate hardship for these households that could have lasting consequences.”
Health officials said recipients should see their February benefits “automatically loaded onto their Lone Star Cards by Jan. 20," which should hold them over through February. In the statement, officials also warned that SNAP recipients should “space their food purchases out throughout the month of February” instead of making mass purchases.
Texas officials said people who were already deemed eligible for SNAP don’t have to do anything to receive these benefits. However, they urged people who are in the process of renewing or applying for benefits to submit their documents as soon as possible.
State health officials say federal officials notified states that they can issue benefits “until federal funds are no longer available.” It's unclear how long that will be.
The partial shutdown is the longest in U.S. history. President Trump has said he is unwilling to reopen the government without funding for a wall on the country’s southern border.