Twenty-one days after the federal government reopened, New Yorkers are still struggling to make up the so-called "SNAP gap" created by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
To help ease the burden, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will receive their monthly benefits by March 7, nearly a week early.
Cuomo said the move will also help more than 20,000 New Yorkers who were either furloughed or had to work without pay during the shutdown. Many of these workers, according to the governor’s office, had to get emergency food assistance after not receiving a paycheck for more than a month.
“We will not allow the abject failure of leadership in Washington to jeopardize the ability of families to put food on the table,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This early release of food benefits will provide a measure of relief to New Yorkers who rely on this critical program to make ends meet.”
The monthly allowance schedule was interrupted when the federal government ordered the program to release February benefits early. Around the country, SNAP recipients received this month’s benefits on Jan. 17 — three weeks early — to make sure states did not run out of funding during the shutdown. This “SNAP gap” made it more difficult for families to get enough food throughout the past few weeks.
There are approximately 2.7 million people and 1.5 million households in New York that rely on the program, according to the governor’s office.
“We are working to help New Yorkers bridge the SNAP gap caused by the federal shutdown by getting March SNAP benefits to recipients earlier than usual,” said New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance acting Commissioner Mike Hein. “But we know many families will still be forced to seek assistance from their local food pantry.”
Cuomo is also addressing the increased burden on local food pantries by extending the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Food Drive. The drive was originally meant to end this week but will continue collecting food and money through March. Donations will be distributed to local food banks, food pantries and other service programs.
“Thousands of New York’s families rely on vital assistance programs for access to nutritious foods that might otherwise not be available to them,” said New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “As food insecurity rises and local food banks face empty pantries, I encourage everyone is able to donate to do so.”
New Yorkers can donate and find volunteer opportunities at feedingnys.org.