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February SNAP benefits to come early

February’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be issued early due to the partial government shutdown, even if the stalemate ends by Jan. 20, a release from Oregon Department of Human Services said Tuesday.

The early benefits will not result in a surplus of benefits being issued, said Self-Sufficiency Director Kim Fredlund.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is closed during the partial government shutdown, which had lasted 26 days as of Wednesday, directed states to issue the benefits early even if the government reopens before Jan. 20.

The plan to continue funding if the shutdown persists into March remains unclear.

Participants are being cautioned to carefully budget their resources for February. A 2011 research paper on SNAP recipient eating patterns over a month found that 59 percent of benefits were spent within the first week of issuance.

Kelly Gonzales, spokeswoman for ACCESS, said the organization hasn’t seen a significant increase in requests for service yet, largely because SNAP benefits have still been administered.

“Should those benefits be reduced or eliminated, we anticipate a significant increase in the need for food,” she said in an email. “Because many local residents may be facing furlough time, or working without pay due to the partial federal shutdown, depending on the long-term effects, we may see additional requests for support for rental assistance, energy payments and other needs.”