The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and its partners are preparing for a major change in how food stamp benefits are distributed. An initial meeting this week kicked off the planning process to implement the changes on July 1, 2016.
DHW is required by legislation passed in the 2015 session to issue benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the first 10 days of the month rather than only on the first day of the month. The change will begin on July 1, 2016, but an adjustment period is likely for grocers and participants. Grocers lobbied the Legislature to move to a 10-day distribution for benefits because of crowded stores, long lines and inventory challenges on the first of each month.
“We want to be as transparent as possible for everyone who will be affected by this change,” said Lori Wolff, administrator for the Division of Welfare. “This includes participants who might be confused about when they receive their benefits; the grocers and retail outlets who may be dealing with those confused shoppers; and the food banks and pantries whose services will be needed to help families get the food they need during the transition.”
The current plan calls for participants to receive their benefits based on the last number of the birth year of the primary applicant. A person born in 1970, for example, would receive their benefits on the 10th day of the month. Someone born in 1981 would receive it on the first day. The primary applicant is the person who applied for the benefits; the person who receives the benefits (or payee) might be a different person in the family. That distinction will be important as participants figure out when they will receive their benefits.
The initial meeting is a starting point, Wolff said. Ongoing discussions will include a stakeholder analysis, an implementation timeline, clear communication plan, an analysis of the impact of the change, and risk mitigation. There remains a lot of planning to do and decisions to be made. Work meetings will take place regularly and will include a growing list of people, businesses and organizations that will be affected by the change. If you would like to be included in upcoming meetings or if you have questions about this change, please contact the Division of Welfare at (208) 334-5815.
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