Government shutdown prompts early release of SNAP benefits

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Until a deal is passed to reopen the federal government thousands of families face an uncertain future.

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Many families using SNAP benefits, commonly known as 'food stamps,' have already gotten their February benefits early, but families and charities are planning ahead. If the shutdown drags on there is no guarantee that they will get their March benefits on time, experts say.

"SNAP is the first line of defense for a hungry person," said Michael Halligan, CEO of God's Pantry Food Bank, which helps people in 50 counties in central and eastern Kentucky. "For every meal that a food bank is able to distribute, SNAP provides 12. So it's almost impossible for a food bank and other charitable organizations to make up the difference for what SNAP provides if SNAP isn't funded for March and beyond. It's a very big concern."

Halligan said God's Pantry is preparing to provide additional services starting at the end of February when families' SNAP benefits could run out, but he said they cannot completely close the gap that would be created by a temporary loss of SNAP benefits.

Two groups in Lexington are holding a community-wide meeting on Saturday to address a potential housing and food crisis caused by a continuing shutdown.

Halligan also urged furloughed federal employees and those working without pay during the shutdown not to be afraid to reach out to food pantries and ask for help if they need it. Folks who are able can easily make financial contributions to the food bank online.

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