The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is being proactive due to the partial goverment shutdown, which is the longest shutdown in U.S. history. In an effort to ensure families receive the food they need while the federal government is in a partial shutdown, (DFCS) has released the February allotment of food stamp benefits early to all Georgia residents. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) annonuced Tuesday, January 8 that officials made the decision to protect Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants access and announced that food stamp recipients will have access to their full benefits for February, even if the partial government shutdown continues. USDA is working with states to load benefits onto recipients’ cards by Jan. 20, under a provision that allows them to award the benefits. Georgia SNAP, traditionally known as food stamps, recipients can now access their February benefits via their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and do not have to wait until their regularly-scheduled issuance date for the month. Georgia DFCS worked over the weekend with its EBT vendor, Conduent, and with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to provide early issuance of February benefits for all SNAP recipients. The move was made in an effort to ensure families are fully prepared to purchase food in the event that the partial government shutdown is not resolved before current funding for the program is exhausted. “Georgia has worked very closely with the federal USDA staff to prepare for the possible impact of a limited federal shutdown, said DFCS Chief Deputy Division Director, Jon Anderson. The division is monitoring the situation and continuing to evaluate options as circumstances dictate. “We are hopeful the early release of next month’s benefit amount will help families equip themselves appropriately should the partial shutdown continue.” Approximately 1.6 million Georgians rely on SNAP assistance to feed their families. SNAP benefits are generally released over a 19-day cycle between the fifth day and 23rd day of each month. DFCS is committed to also providing education to food stamp customers with a pertinent reminder to spread consumption over the upcoming months. During this time, recipients are encouraged, when shopping and as general practice to help stretch the food stamp dollar. Georgians who have trouble using their EBT card should call 1-888-421-3281. DFCS will post ongoing updates, including information on how budget benefits wisely January through March, and ongoing, on the agency website here.