The East Atlanta Village Farmers Market is one of many in Georgia that accept food stamps. Maya T. Prabhu/maya.prabhu@ajc.com

USDA clears February food stamp disbursement for 1.5 million Georgians

More than 1.5 million Georgians are no longer in jeopardy of losing access to their February food stamps, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it can tap into pre-allocated funds to distribute the food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as long as the money is spent by Jan. 20. That means Georgians receiving SNAP benefits will receive their full February benefits early this month.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, it was unclear whether recipients would receive the benefits in February because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

States are being asked to disperse February food stamp benefits by Jan. 20. Perdue, Georgia’s former governor, said legislation that funded the federal government through Dec. 21 allows financial obligations — including the food stamp program — to be paid within 30 days of the shutdown.

Officials with Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services declined to comment on the announcement.

“Our motto here at USDA is to ‘do right and feed everyone,’ ” Perdue said. “With this solution, I think we’ve got the ‘feed everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we constructed takes care of the ‘do right’ part.”

USDA officials stopped short of saying the agency would go into its $3 billion contingency fund if an agreement is not made by March to fund the government.

As of Nov. 30, the most recent data available from DFCS, more than 1.5 million Georgians in 700,619 households were benefiting from food stamps. Households received an average of $268 a month, state officials said.

President Donald Trump and Congress have yet to reach an agreement on a spending bill. Trump has said the shutdown would last “as long as it takes” until Congress agrees to provide sufficient funding to construct a wall on the country’s southern border.

Democrats have refused to budge, with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying there is “no amount of persuasion” Trump could use to get her party members to agree to fund a wall along the border with Mexico.

“I call on the House and Senate to agree on appropriations legislation and to send it to President Trump in a form that he is able to sign,” Perdue said.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

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