Monday, January 14, 2019

El Paso County needs SNAP paperwork early due to shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18.

Due to a federal government directive, state and local agencies around the country are sounding an urgent message to those in need of food benefits: Get your paperwork in before funding runs out.

Those in El Paso County whose food assistance cases are due for redetermination must submit documents by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in order to be eligible for February benefits, according to a Jan. 11 statement from the county's Department of Human Services titled "Urgent Update to Food Assistance Program in Government Shutdown."

Normally that paperwork wouldn't be due until February, says El Paso County DHS spokesperson Kristina Iodice. But the federal government shutdown has left agencies around the country scrambling to let SNAP recipients know about deadline changes.

This shutdown, which has left nine federal departments and dozens of agencies without funding, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay (including thousands in Colorado), is the longest in history. It began Dec. 21 when a stopgap funding measure expired, and President Donald Trump refused to sign new legislation to fund the government that did not include $5 billion for a border wall — a demand that Democrats have firmly opposed.

As of the morning of Jan. 14, there were about 2,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient households in El Paso County that needed to submit redetermination paperwork, Iodice says. The documents may be submitted online at http://colorado.gov/PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353, or in person at El Paso County DHS locations.

El Paso County DHS' main location at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road will stay open until 8.p.m. — three hours later than usual — on Jan. 14 to accommodate an increased demand for services.

SNAP funds for February will be distributed by Jan. 20, weeks earlier than normal, to those who have complete files. However, the statement notes that the county "cannot guarantee assistance" even if documents are received by the appropriate deadlines.

"At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance," the statement continues.

The directive to distribute funds early came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which announced Jan. 8 that it would utilize a provision in the last stopgap funding measure allowing certain payments within 30 days of the measure's Dec. 21 expiration date. It expects February SNAP benefits to cost around $4.8 billion.

The USDA also announced it will continue funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through February, using some unspent funding from prior years.

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado hoped to address another need created by the government shutdown — food for federal workers who haven't received pay since December. The food bank will host a free food distribution Jan. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m. at its Colorado Springs facility, located near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue, at 2506 Preamble Point.

"Please help us spread the word to families and individuals affected by the government shutdown, or anyone who is in need," Care and Share posted on Facebook. "It is drive-thru style. Volunteers and staff will load fresh produce, frozen and staple food items into vehicles. Everyone is welcome and will receive food!"

Lynne Telford, the southern Colorado food bank’s president and CEO, says Care and Share is looking at options to address an anticipated need from federal workers and SNAP recipients who didn’t turn in paperwork on time.

That could include using reserve funds to buy food, she says, “but it’s important that we maintain enough reserves for our ongoing operations.”

“We really are hoping that the community will once again rise when we have a community emergency, much like they did for Waldo Canyon Fire or Black Forest Fire,” Telford adds. “The community made sure we were able to take care of the people who were impacted.”

Care and Share is asking the community for financial donations in particular, says Joanna Wise, the food bank’s marketing and communications director.

“We’re always in need of food donations year-round, but when it comes to something that we have to react to quickly, monetary donations are more effective for us,” Wise says. “It saves us a lot of time, because with food donations we have to inspect it and sort it and repack it. When we purchase it, we’re able to eliminate that step so we can get it to our partners a lot faster.”

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