Illinois residents will receive SNAP benefits despite government shutdown

Illinois residents who count on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive benefits for February despite the partial federal government shutdown, state officials said Friday.

The Illinois Department of Human Services figured out a way to provide benefits through SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which is federally funded.

“There’s something of a catch and that is those benefits will have to be issued early,” IDHS Secretary James Dimas said Friday. “It’s going to be really important that people understand that this is early and not extra. These benefits have to last them through the end of February.”

Benefits will be available by Jan. 20, nearly three weeks before some families normally receive their credits to buy food with an Illinois Link Card. Over 870,000 Illinois households, or about 1.8 million people, receive assistance statewide, the agency said.

Dimas said his agency is trying to find ways to provide benefits for March in case the government shutdown isn’t resolved. The partial government shutdown is a result of President Donald Trump and Congress being unable to agree on a budget bill.

“I also want to say for people that are experiencing food insecurities, might include federal employees at this point, they can go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository,” Dimas said.

Greg Trotter, a spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said while they are committed to helping combat food insecurities they could never replace what SNAP assistance does for families.

“According to our estimate, for every one meal that the food depository provides in Cook County, SNAP benefits provide the equivalent of eight meals,” Trotter said. “If SNAP was disrupted there is no way, despite our best efforts, food banks like ours would be able to fill that void.”

If you are food insecure you can visit Greater Chicago Food Depository’s website to find your nearest food pantry.

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Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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