The partial shutdown of the federal government has Nebraska officials scrambling to get an urgent message to food stamp recipients:
- If January is your month to get recertified for the year, you suddenly have much less time to do so. Your recertification is due by Tuesday instead of the end of the month. This affects about 8,700 Nebraska households.
- All of the almost 74,000 households that receive food stamps will be getting their February payment early — by Jan. 20. So while it may appear that you’re getting a bonus, you’re not. Those are your February benefits, and you’ll need to stretch them until the end of that month.
The changes are a result of the partial shutdown of the federal government, said Lee Rettig, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
State employees will work through the weekend to process recertifications and new applications so people get their February benefits, said Matthew Wallen, director of the Division of Children and Family Services, which administers the food stamps program, also known as SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Wallen said some food stamp recipients will be getting phone calls this weekend as the state tries to push through the processing. State officials are worried that scammers may capitalize on this change in procedure. Wallen emphasized that state employees will not be asking for your Social Security number, so don’t give that out over the phone if someone asks for it.
Rettig said the state prefers that people try the online avenue first because the phone lines have already been busy because of worried food stamp recipients.
It’s not clear what will happen if people miss the Tuesday deadline.
Tuesday is also the state’s deadline for submitting those re-certification requests to a federal contractor for processing. Because of the potential for a last-minute overload, state officials hope that those who receive food stamps will act quickly and submit their requests in the next few days rather than wait until Tuesday.
The state plans a Friday teleconference with nonprofits and others who work with the needy to seek their help in getting the word out.
And even if the federal shutdown comes to an early end, all food stamp recipients will get their February payment early, Rettig said.