SNAP benefits may end with no budget

Published 6:19 pm Monday, September 28, 2015

The Beaufort County Department of Social Services is sending out an alert: SNAP benefits may be unavailable as of Oct. 1 if the federal government doesn’t sign a budget resolution.

“If they don’t pass a budget, benefits end on Sept. 30,” said Geoff Marett, assistant director of Beaufort County Department of Social Services. “The USDA can’t disperse benefits if they’re can’t be an allocation.”

Marett said recipients and retailers should be following the budget issue on the federal level in case no budget is resolved and the USDA blocks the acceptance of Electronic Benefits Cards (ABT) used to purchase eligible food items through the SNAP program.

“If a resolution is passed this will be a non-issue,” Marett said. “The benefits will continue without interruption if there’s no lapse in funding.”

The latest count of individuals receiving SNAP Food and Nutrition benefits in Beaufort County is 10,327, according to Marett.

Other benefits on the EBT Card for programs like Work First program (TANF) and Women’s, Infant and Children’s Program (WIC) will still be available in the event of a government shutdown.

According to a press release from DSS, the USDA is recommending retailers accepting SNAP benefits get additional stock in the likelihood of increased sales at the end the month and those recipients of SNAP benefits should plan on using remaining September benefits from now until the end of the month.

“What we’re recommending is that, if in watching current events and it looks like there hasn’t been a resolution passed, they might want to go, if they have unused benefits, they might want to go purchase these items,” Marett said.

The recommendation is that clients purchase items that can be stored and used later if there is a shutdown: canned vegetables, potted meats, canned pasta dishes, peanut butter, soups, oatmeal, dry or canned milk, baby food, boxed meals, canned fruit, water, frozen or canned juices, macaroni and cheese (that does not require milk), ramen noodles and frozen foods that do not require additional ingredients, according to the press release.

DSS faced this same issue in 2013, when the program was shut down for 16 days. Though it’s unknown whether the same will occur on Oct. 1, Marett said DSS is trying to be proactive.

“We just know the type of impact it can have on our clients and retailers if they have no notice. We just want to minimum that impact if at all possible,” Marett said.

In the event of a shutdown, retailers — which is most grocery stores — should not process any SNAP transactions until the system is brought back up, as there will be no funds available during this time,” the release reads.

SNAP recipients can check the balance on their EBT cards by checking the SNAP balance on the last grocery receipt; contacting the North Carolina EBT Call Center at 888-622-7328; and visiting — sign-in is required to check the balance.

For additional information, contact Marie Rice, income maintenance supervisor at Beaufort Department of Social Services, at 252-975-5500.