Despite the federal government shutdown, Illinoisans will continue getting food aid through February.
Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with benefits paid by the Illinois Department of Human Services. About 1.8 million people rely on the program in Illinois.
USDA funding ran out in mid-December, leaving the agency with one month to pay states for February benefits.
That means Illinois customers will receive their allotment early, according to DHS Secretary James Dimas.
“We’re going to be issuing February benefits on or before January 20th,” Dimas said Friday at a news conference in Chicago. “But it’s going to be really important that people understand this is going to be early, not extra.”
Dimas said the normal monthly benefit amount will be automatically loaded on the recipient’s Link card, without need to contact their DHS office or caseworker.
But state Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat from Chicago, says there is an important call concerned customers can make.
“We should be calling our congresspeople and we should be calling the president’s office to end the shutdown,” Ford said at the news conference. “It is a threat to the American people to have us in a predicament where we may not be in the best state to make sure families are able to eat.”
Dimas said his department will continue to work with federal officials to ensure that future benefits are available.
“We all understand, very much, the seriousness of this issue and the fact that people depend on this resource to feed themselves and their families,” Dimas said. “We won’t rest until we have a solution for March, and hopefully this impasse is cleared up before then.”
Dimas added the department learned “a lot of tricks” during Illinois’ two-year budget stalemate that will help them get through the federal shutdown. In the meantime, he recommends that people who are going hungry seek help from a local food bank.