Rollout of new food stamps schedule was uneventful

Idaho’s  transition to a 10-day schedule for the distribution of food stamps benefits was smooth, with minimal issues being reported  for the 180,000 citizens enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Food stamp recipients, grocery stores and food pantries proved to be informed and prepared for the change, which took place from July 1-10.

“Based on what has happened in other states, this had the potential to be an extremely difficult transition,” said Welfare Administrator Lori Wolff. “But there were very few issues, thanks to the collaboration and efforts of all of our partners in feeding Idahoans who need help to put food on their tables. Most of the calls we received were from people who knew but had forgotten about the change. We were able to help them get the information and resources they needed until their benefits were available.”

The new schedule is necessary because the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2014 to require the Department of Health and Welfare to issue benefits over the first 10 days of the month rather than only on the first day of the month. Grocers had lobbied the Legislature to move to a 10-day distribution for benefits because of crowded stores, long lines and challenges with inventory on the first of each month.

Wolff and other Welfare staff started working on a plan to implement the change more than a year ago, when she convened the first meeting with partners and stakeholders to begin the planning process. Representatives from food pantries, the Idaho Food Bank, and grocers and other retailers were invited. Meetings took place on a regular basis until the transition began on July 1.

“Their willingness to work through problems and to come up with solutions was so important to this transition,” Wolff said. “We want the relatively smooth transition to continue during the next cycle in August and thereafter.”

Recipients can figure out their date of delivery by the last number of the applicant’s birth year. If that number is 1, benefits will be available on the first of the month. If that number is 0, they will be available on the 10th day of the month.

Recipients also can sign up to receive text alerts when their benefits are available by calling 1-800-432-4328 or by registering at www.ebtaccount.jpmorgan.com/chp.

They can also access their accounts online by setting up an account at idalink.idaho.gov. Their account will show the date their benefits will be available.

And anyone with questions can call Health and Welfare offices at 1-877-456-1233.

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