The U.S. Department of Agriculture is distributing February’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits “much earlier than normal” because of the partial government shutdown, requiring some Coloradans to submit documents immediately.

The USDA is relying on a provision in the stopgap funding measure that expired Dec. 21 allowing the federal government to make certain payments within 30 days of the measure expiring, providing the $4.8 billion needed to cover February SNAP benefits, an El Paso County news release says.

The move has the potential to affect 220,000 Colorado families, a state news release says.

“We need folks to understand how important it is to act quickly so they won’t see a disruption in their benefits,” Ki’i Powell, director of the state’s Office of Economic Security, said in the release.

Colorado families receive about $55 million per month in SNAP benefits.

“To be clear, the early release of benefits is not additional funding,” the release says. “This effort is intended to get February benefits to eligible recipients before current funding for the program lapses as a result of the partial federal government funding. If the federal government shutdown continues, benefits may not be available after February.”

If a food assistance case is due for redetermination for February benefits, all documents must be submitted by 3 p.m. Tuesday to receive assistance in February, the county release says. As of 9 a.m. Friday, more than 2,400 local SNAP recipients had files that were not complete.

RRR can be submitted via PEAK at colorado.gov/PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353 or in-person at county Department of Human Services locations, the release says.

The main DHS office, on the third floor of the Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road, will have extended hours on these days:

• 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

• 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

• 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday

Curbside drop-off also will be available at the Citizens Service Center. Services will be limited during these hours, with EBT card issuance available but no interviews being completed.

“Cases that are current do not need to take action,” the county release says. “SNAP funds will be distributed by Jan. 20 to those cases with completed files. Even if documentation is received by the appropriate deadlines, the county cannot guarantee assistance.

“The directive for this plan came from the federal level. El Paso County Department of Human Services is taking direction from the state, and the situation is evolving. At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance.

“The Board of El Paso County Commissioners does not make policy decisions regarding food assistance and many other DHS programs. The majority of funding for assistance programs comes from federal funds, with a small portion from state coffers.”

The USDA also has announced that funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will continue through February.

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Ellie is a crime and breaking news reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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