If you’re on food stamps, then you’re already used to the process and this will be old news. But if you’re new, then read on. First, you get to the point where you realize that your current income won’t cut it anymore and google what the requirements, eligibility and application process is like in your state. Next, you’ll submit your documents to prove that you need food stamps, and meet with a caseworker to go over the details. If you’re approved, you wait for your EBT card to come in the mail.
Each month, at the beginning of the month, the balance on your EBT card gets automatically loaded with the amount you’ve been allotted. How much you get depends on your household income, with a general rule of thumb being the more people in your house that don’t earn a lot of money, the more money in food stamps you’ll get.
A bit change took place this April in Athens County when officials responsible for doling out food stamps changed the distribution from the first five days of the month to a 20-day period. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a huge deal — after all, recipients still get the same amount of money in food stamps each month and that hasn’t changed.
But imagine it’s your employer suddenly changing how you get paid. Instead of the usual biweekly direct deposit, let’s say your employer decides to pay you once a month, in the second half of the month. They may say it’s no big deal because you’re still getting the same rate of pay, but it is. Now, you have to completely refigure your budget, finances, how you spend money, and what you do in between.
With this new change to the program, those currently receiving food stamps won’t be affected by the staggered dates. But new applicants or recipients who have to reapply? They’re treated like new recipients and are placed on the new schedule, which means they’re plain out of luck for when they receive food stamps.
One of the biggest complaints new recipients have mentioned is not having that cushion there in the beginning of the month, while food pantries and shopkeepers have complained of rushes and lulls. In particular, the latter have mentioned that there’s a gap when no food stamps are handed out, followed by a spike where it seems like everyone at once is trying to access food pantries and giveaway food boxes.
It may seem terribly obvious to us, but why not stagger the food stamps a different way? For example, divide the alphabet into quarters and hand out food stamps once a week each month based on what the recipients’ last name starts with. That way, food stamps officials can have a staggered schedule and recipients don’t have to adjust to a huge shift in the system.
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