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Federal funding for SNAP in Colorado, nation to be limited

The U.S. Department of Agriculture asked states to divvy out SNAP benefits early in response to the partial government shutdown.

Federal funding for Colorado SNAP benefits -- also known as food stamps -- will be limited after Jan. 20, according to Ki’I Powell, director of the Office of Economic Security at the Colorado Department of Human Services.

"Folks can still apply and are encouraged to, but the help is no longer guaranteed," Powell said.

It's one of several effects of the partial government shutdown, which has stretched into Day 25 and is the longest in U.S. history. Some 800,000 federal workers have been placed on furlough -- about 53,000 in Colorado -- while President Donald Trump and Democrats remain gridlocked over funding for a barrier along the country's southwestern border.

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SNAP recipients are also required to periodically re-certify their eligibility for the program to keep receiving benefits.

Tuesday at 12 p.m. was the deadline for Colorado SNAP recipients up for re-certification by the end of January to turn in the necessary paperwork.

That deadline came after the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday directed states to divvy out benefits for February early -- by Jan. 20.

Of the approximately 220,000 people in the state who receive SNAP benefits, about 20,000 were up for re-certification, according to Powell.

Powell said the federal government alerted the Colorado Department of Human Services that they were utilizing an "early issuance strategy" to ensure people received February benefits.

"So we essentially had 10 days to figure out how we were going to make that work in the system and what we needed to communicate with our clients," Powell said.

Once they figured that out, Powell said the department had five days to alert people up for re-certification about the bumped-up Jan. 15 deadline.

"I’m really hopeful that we don’t go beyond February because it’s unclear what we would do in March," she said.

Powell said alerts are sent when someone needs to re-certify, and the department leveraged social media and news releases to warn people.

"If you were in line by noon – they say it’s pretty likely you will get benefits for February," she said.

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

New applicants have until Jan. 30 to be guaranteed benefits through February.

"We have clarified with the federal government that benefits will be retroactively made available," Powell said. "So let’s just say on Feb. 15 I apply and there are no dollars available today … when the government shutdown ends, hopefully in March they will retroactively make those benefits available."

The Colorado Department of Human Services also encourages furloughed federal government employees who are in need to apply for SNAP.

Powell said the only other option many families have for food is through local food banks.

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