Federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, dodged a bullet recently, at least temporarily, when the USDA announced that federal food assistance dollars will flow through February.
But here in Texas, that that could create a different problem.
"We have some concerns about sort of the difficulties involved in releasing those benefits all at once, which is not how we usually distribute SNAP benefits," says Celia Cole, executive director of the Austin-based hunger advocacy group Feeding Texas.
She's concerned most for families in need of food assistance, but says she's also worried about the state’s food retailers.
"Typically our retail stores in Texas are very conscious of sort of spending patterns and they’ll stock up at staff up at the beginning of the month for stores that have a lot of SNAP customers because they get their benefits and come in and spend them," she says. "It’s very, very common for people to use their SNAP benefits all at once and then they often run out at the end of the month and so I think our stores are very in tune, our retailers are very in tune with that and really work to ensure that they can meet the needs for their customers."
Texas staggers its SNAP payments to beneficiaries throughout the month. But THIS month, the federal government is releasing the funds in one big sum expected to cover into NEXT month. Cole says recipients might not see benefits again for another seven weeks.
"Someone who typically gets their benefits later in the month, if they get their February benefits on Jan. 20, they might be waiting until mid-March for their next allotment," she says.
Three-point-seven million Texans receive SNAP assistance. Cole says officials need to make sure they explain to recipients why they’re getting so much assistance all at once. And be told the importance of budgeting for what COULD be a long pause until their next round of funding.