URGENT UPDATE: El Paso Count families who missed food stamp deadline encouraged to still apply

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - Nearly 1,500 El Paso County families receiving food assistance missed the deadline to turn in paperwork to receive next month's benefits.

As 11 News previously reported, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has directed states to distribute February's food benefits early in order to feed families while there is still funding. Colorado will be distributing food stamps on Jan. 20.

Thursday marks day number 27 for the partial government shutdown, which has long surpassed the record for longest shutdown in U.S. history. Officials caution that there is a very real possibility of funding running out for services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Families who take part in the SNAP must submit paperwork every six months to keep their cases up to date. The expedited February benefits meant the deadline for families who were required to turn in paperwork this month was bumped up to Jan. 15. The deadline did not apply for current cases and first-time applicants; the former will get food stamps without action necessary, and the latter has until Jan. 29 to apply.

For those who were affected by the deadline, El Paso County encourages them to still apply, saying that there is still a chance they could receive benefits if any are left over.

Everyone who receives February food stamps must make them last through the end of that month.

The El Paso County Human Services Department released information Wednesday outlining the next step for people receiving their food benefits. Read below:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) is providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through February 2019 in response to the partial government shutdown. At federal direction, all states including Colorado will distribute SNAP funds for February much earlier than normal, which required the early deadline for processing.

All redeterminations were due by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Files submitted after the deadline will be processed as quickly as possible, but there is no guarantee of Food Assistance payments.

Food Assistance cases that were not due for redetermination and were current with completed files are expected to receive February issuance on or before January 20.

At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance. Households receiving Food Assistance are encouraged to stretch their food dollars as far as possible.

Interviews will begin Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, for those who applied for Food Assistance or who want to apply. Redeterminations received after the deadline will be processed. If federal funds are available, such cases will receive Food Assistance payments, but there is no guarantee.

Interviews area available by appointment or at DHS offices:

·Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, 80907 (7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays)

·Championship View - East, 5850 Championship View #120A, 80922 (8 a.m.-11:30 a.m., 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays)

·Fountain Office/EBT Site, 350 Lyckman Dr., Fountain 80817 (8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays)

Please note, all El Paso County administrative and elected offices and affiliated agencies, including the Department of Human Services, will be closed Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

Information and applications for assistance programs are available online via PEAK at http://www.colorado.gov/PEAK. RRR paperwork may also be submitted via PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353, or in-person at El Paso County Department of Human Services locations.

If someone would like to complete a Food Assistance application via a phone call, please contact Hunger Free Colorado at 1-855-855-4626 or Colorado Benefits Center at 1-855-871-2696.

Due to unusually high call volume, anyone calling the customer service line may expect long wait times.

Early issuance of February Food Assistance was at the direction of the federal government. El Paso County Department of Human Services is taking direction from the state, and the situation is evolving.

A provision in the stopgap funding measure that expired on December 21, 2018, allowed the federal government and the USDA to make certain payments within 30 days of the stopgap measure expiring. The move provided the $4.8 billion needed to cover February SNAP needs across the country.

A list of area food banks is online at the Department of Human Services home page.