Food stamps program begins overhaul

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – As of Sept. 1, the Virginia Department of Social Service has made changes to its issuance system for the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) program, which used to be known as Food Stamps.  The program now operates on a new staggered payment schedule, instead of passing out all of its funds to recipients on the first of the month.

Virginia was one of nine states that still distributed benefits solely on the first of the month, but not everyone is thrilled about the change.

Usually, the first of the month is busier at Community Supermarket in Southside, especially on Labor Day weekend, but not this Sept. 1 says assistant manager Keelan Goodwin.

Goodwin’s store has seen a lull in customer traffic, and he thinks the change in the food stamp system is to blame.

The Virginia Department of Social Services is increasing the number of days per month it issues food stamps from one to four.

Instead of receiving money on the first of the month like before, people using the program will get their payment on either the first, fourth, seventh or ninth day of the month.

“Not saying change is bad, but sometimes change effects a lot of people in a lot of bad ways, and a lot of good ways,” say Goodwin.

“Less traffic in the store and more things on the shelves, it’s going to be a convenience.  I like it better now,” says Carolyn Lewis, who uses food stamps to help buy her groceries.

Goodwin says the changes also help bigger chain stores restock their shelves quicker if they get wiped out at the beginning of the month by the wave of SNAP recipients who traditionally buy groceries soon after their money arrives.

Since his store’s inventory is not automated, Goodwin says they do not have to wait for orders to arrive before filling their shelves like some larger companies.

However, stores like Community Supermarket have a tougher time absorbing a financial hit if customer flow is more spread out.

“It’s just I wish people would think of the smaller organizations a little more,” says Goodwin.

Most customers at Community Supermarket say they support the changes in the food stamp program, but it will take some getting used to. 

Still, some shoppers are questioning the timing of instituting these changes right now.

Carolyn Lewis shops with her daughter weekly, using food stamps to pay for part of her bill.

She likes that the new system will make her shopping more convenient by decreasing crowds, but with kids going back to school soon, she worries the changes might cause unneeded confusion.

“Next time they get ready to make a change, they need to ask somebody first,” says Williams about the timing of the changes.

As of September 1st, the majority of recipients receive their payment on the 4th of the month.  The new payment schedule will not take full effect until next month.

To see more about the changes and find out how payment dates are decided, go to Virginia Department of Social Service’s website:   http://www.dss.virginia.gov/

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