Food stamp issuance to be staggered
Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Grocery vendors in Suffolk are preparing for a change in the way the state issues electronic food stamp benefits.
Payments now will be staggered throughout the first nine days of a month, rather than all being issued on the first of the month. The change was made by the General Assembly this year after grocers implored the state for the switch, which they say will help them better manage their stores.
“We think it will certainly help us be able to take better care of our customers,” said Amanda Powell, store manager at the North Main Street Walmart. “It’s very difficult sometimes with all of it coming in one day.”
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On Sept. 1, about 40 percent of the state’s food stamp recipients will receive their allotment as normal. The other 60 percent will see a three-day delay and will not receive their benefits until Sept. 4.
In October, some of those who saw the delay until the fourth of the month will remain on the fourth. However, some will be delayed to the seventh and others until the ninth. That will complete the process of putting the food stamp clientele into staggered mode.
The recipients whose dates are moved will be determined based on the last digit of their case number.
Suffolk Social Services Director Leonard Horton said recipients were notified about the change beginning in February. Unused food stamp benefits roll over to the next month, so they have had seven months to save up to cover the gap.
Students returning to school next week will help families survive the gap, Horton said. Students whose families receive food stamps automatically qualify for free breakfasts and lunches. A slight increase because of a cost-of-living adjustment also is planned in October, he added, which could help alleviate the pinch some families will feel.
Horton said Virginia was one of only nine states that still issued food stamps — known formally as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — to its entire recipient base on the same day.
Powell, the Walmart store manager, said she is excited for the change, which will help the store keep grocery items better stocked and ease the pressure on cashiers. It also will help customers better navigate the store, she said.
She is curious, though, to see whether recipients will still arrive before midnight on their assigned day and wait by the registers until the clock strikes 12.
“It’s really hard to predict the changes in the shopping pattern,” Powell said. “We’re going to do the best we can to adjust as time goes on to make it as smooth as we can for our customers.”
For more information on the changes, food stamp recipients can visit the Virginia Department of Social Services website at www.dss.virginia.gov and click on “SNAP Changes Coming” or call 1-800-552-3431.
The new schedule for issuing food stamp benefits is as follows:
- Case numbers ending in 0, 1, 2 or 3 will continue to be issued on the first day of the month.
- Case numbers ending in 4 or 5 will change to the fourth day of the month in September and remain that way.
- Case numbers ending in 6 or 7 will be issued Sept. 4 and Oct. 7, and remain on the seventh of the month thereafter.
- Case numbers ending in 8 or 9 will be issued Sept. 4 and Oct. 9, and remain on the ninth of the month thereafter.