(Clover, S.C.) –- The effects of the partial shutdown of the federal government, which temporarily ended last month after a record 35 days, have been felt in South Carolina.
While the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) offices remained open, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), often called food stamps, has seen a disruption in the allocation of benefits.
Marilyn Matheus, director of public information and media relations, said DSS offices and employees within the state have not been affected by the government shutdown.
“DSS continues to operate as normal and does not have any employees on furlough,” said Matheus, prior to the end of the shutdown.
However, the 617,516 recipients of SNAP benefits in South Carolina, including 22,787 recipients in York County, will see a gap in their food assistance.
In a press release last month, DSS announced it would issue February’s benefits early, on Jan. 17, due to the government shutdown.
The move came at the instruction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the SNAP program.
However, Matheus said DSS employees have not noticed much concern from SNAP beneficiaries.
“We have not experienced a significant increase in calls from SNAP recipients stemming from the federal government shutdown,” Matheus said.
Clover resident Willene Lowry, who receives food stamps, said she was notified about the early issuing of benefits via the mail.
“They sent me a letter telling me how much I was getting, [which was] $16 for this month, I usually get $120,” she said.
Lowry said that the decrease of her benefits may have come from factors other than the shutdown, such as an increase in her monthly disability check, but she wasn’t completely sure.
DSS said the early issuing of benefits was “not a bonus payment” and SNAP recipients would not receive another benefit in February, even if the government reopened. Thus, DSS urged recipients to plan their budgets accordingly.
That means recipients would see a longer than usual gap in their benefits between February and March.
With this in mind, Clover resident Jackie Mackins, a 36-year-old mother of five and SNAP recipient, said she planned to change her approach to grocery shopping during the shutdown.
“I don’t plan on buying groceries with my benefits for February until February, but when I do go in February, a whole lot of stuff I normally buy like snacks and stuff will be cut out,” said Mackins.
It’s still unclear what will happen with SNAP benefits and other services moving forward, considering the deal to end the shutdown only reopened the government for three weeks.
Should the government shutdown again, that could extend the gap in SNAP benefits.
“If the benefits don’t come in March, I’m going to get what I need (from the store) and not what I want,” said Mackins.