March SNAP benefits going out early


The early release is intended to ease the burden on recipients who have been forced to stretch February’s benefits for more than six weeks because of the recent shutdown of the federal government.
“We will not allow the abject failure of leadership in Washington to jeopardize the ability of families to put food on the table,” Governor Cuomo said.
“This early release of food benefits will provide a measure of relief to New Yorkers who rely on this critical program to make ends meet.”
At the Governor’s direction, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is issuing March benefits earlier than usual for most recipients to mitigate the hardships caused by “SNAP gap.”
This means many New Yorkers will see next month’s benefits appear approximately a week earlier than their normal schedule.
About 2.7 million individuals and 1.5 million households rely on SNAP to make ends meet.
In December alone, New York State issued more than $374 million to help New Yorkers avoid food insecurity.
The federal government directed states to issue SNAP benefits on January 17 due to the government shutdown and so approximately 1.4 million households received their February benefits three weeks earlier than normal.
The regular benefits schedule for March was restored after the federal government reopened, causing some New Yorkers--especially those in New York City--to not see benefits until mid-to-late March.
In addition to issuing SNAP benefits early, the Governor has extended the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Food Drive, which was set to conclude this week.
Recognizing the increased strain on food banks and pantries, the Governor extended the food drive through the end of March to help state agencies collect additional food during a critical time for local banks and pantries.
The food drive, co-sponsored by the Food Bank Association of New York State, calls on state agencies to collect food items or monetary donations for their local community food banks, food pantries, and other service-oriented programs. 
Over the past 18 years, state agencies have collaborated with community-based organizations to collect more than 587,000 pounds of food amounting to approximately 490,000 meals for those in need.
The food is donated to the nine food banks that make up the Food Bank Association of New York State.
Nearly 20,000 New Yorkers were furloughed during the federal shutdown and many more were working without pay for 35 days.
Also, as SNAP recipients exhaust their February benefits, food banks and pantries are expecting even greater demand, while dealing with limited resources.
“We are working to help New Yorkers bridge the SNAP gap caused by the federal shutdown by getting March SNAP benefits to recipients earlier than usual,” New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Mike Hein said.
“But we know many families will still be forced to seek assistance from their local food pantry. Everyone can play a role in this effort by donating food or money to help those in need.”
Kathleen Stress, Board President of Food Bank Association of New York State applauded the Governor’s move.
“We commend the Governor’s outreach and the efforts of the state to ensure that those experiencing hardships are well cared for,” she said. “The decision to release SNAP benefits early for March and the extension of food drives demonstrates the importance of coming together as communities to help those who are trying to make ends meet.
“The nine-member food banks of Food Bank Association of New York State last year provided over 150,000,000 meals in every county across New York State. The work of our association and its members is possible through the partnership of more than 5,000 community-based food pantries and institutions who assist in the distribution of food and services to New Yorkers who are struggling with food insecurity.”