Many people have to switch up their grocery shopping schedules in order to receive food assistance. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers across the state are seeing changes to when they are getting their benefits.
SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamps Program, supplements the food budget of low-income households across the country. The schedule changes in Virginia mean some customers will see delays in when they can buy their food, but officials say the benefits outweigh the costs.
The idea for this staggered schedule came from merchants participating in the program because they had a tough time keeping supplies stocked.
Kim Miller, a manager at Reid Super-Saver Market in Charlottesville, is feeling some relief with the new schedule for SNAP recipients. The first-of-the-month rush will be a thing of the past.
"It makes life a little easier on those days where it hit all at once on the first," Miller said. "I guess you could say a little crazy, because everyone did receive their benefits at the same time."
The new schedule spreads out when benefits are issued over four days. SNAP customers will get their payments on thefirst, fourth, seventh, and ninth day of each month, depending on the last digit of their case number.
Kathryne Presson, an adult eligibility supervisor with the Albemarle County Department of Social Services, said, "60 percent of the caseload has a number ending in the lower digits, so the proportionate number of people that are impacted into the ninth is fairly low."
All customers were notified well in advance. The Virginia Department of Social Services mailed letters to SNAP participants earlier this summer of the changes to come.
Presson said, "I think they've done an effective job of getting this information out there and people are well prepared for it."
The preparation made the transition smoother for grocery stores that may not have known what to expect.
"We were a little worried and were afraid we were going to put more groceries back than selling but actually it worked out real well," Miller said.
SNAP customers did experience a partial implementation of the staggered schedule in September, when some of the benefits were distributed on the fourth of the month instead of the first. Presson says this phased-in approach has been helpful.
"It's a win-win for the merchants and for the customers because they have a better opportunity to stock their shelves and the participants have the opportunity to select from a wider variety of food," she said.
Click here if you receive SNAP benefits and have any questions about the schedule changes. You can also contact the Virginia Department of Social Services at 1-800-552-3431.
Reported by Amy Vu
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