The impact of the partial federal government shutdown
Message from DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht
January 18, 2019
Part of the federal government remains shutdown with no end in sight and I wanted to give you another update on how it impacts us at DHS.
First, I want to thank you for the concern you are sharing for the people receiving our services who are affected by the shutdown as well as the nearly 10,000 federal employees in Oregon who are furloughed or working without pay. People affected by the shutdown are part of our families and communities, and we appreciate the care and extra effort you are making to connect them with resources.
For DHS, the shutdown has a major impact on our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides food benefits to one in five Oregonians. Except for SNAP, we do not expect any other disruptions of our services, daily operations, or ability to pay staff and providers through February. We are constantly monitoring the situation and will let you know if we see other impacts on the horizon. Today we wanted to share details about what's happening with SNAP.
Last week states were directed by the federal agency overseeing SNAP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to distribute February food benefits by Sunday. February food benefits became available to Oregon SNAP participants today.
SNAP participants were mailed a notice about the early release of food benefits, and media and partners are helping us spread the word. Flyers also are available in local Self-Sufficiency Program (SSP) and Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) offices where people apply for SNAP to help them understand what's happening. The USDA has notified retailers who accept SNAP benefits.
This is the first time we distributed food benefits early and it was a Herculean task for SSP and the Office of Information Services (OIS) to make the necessary changes in our antiquated IT systems to get it done on short notice. The SSP team that administers SNAP for Oregon and OIS have worked constantly to make it happen. We greatly appreciate the rapid problem-solving, team approach and hard work it took to meet the distribution deadline.
Many of you are asking what else can be done to help during the shutdown. Most people who come to us for help participate in more than one DHS service. No matter where you work in DHS, you can help by providing information and referrals to clients, family members and friends. You can:
- Gently remind SNAP participants that they got their February food benefits early and need to carefully plan their food benefit use through next month.
- Assure people that local DHS offices are open for business as usual.
- Let people know that we are continuing to take new applications for SNAP and processing them as we normally do, even if people can't provide required verifications because of the shutdown.
- Share that our SSP field offices have rules in hand that allow us to offer SNAP food benefits, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Employment Related Day Care to eligible federal employees impacted by the shutdown.
- Refer people with questions about their SNAP food benefits to their local SSP or APD offices.
We're also getting questions from you about what happens when SNAP participants run out of food benefits. Families participating in SNAP receive an average of $209 in monthly food benefits and it often doesn't cover food needs for a full month. You can refer people to 211Info, the Oregon Food Bank and the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) to find resources in their local communities.
The Governor's annual food drive to support the Oregon Food Bank network starts in February. Many of our local offices are starting voluntary food drive activities early, knowing the need will be greater than normal this year. You will get details from us about the Governor's Food Drive next week. In the meantime, you can find more information and options for helping online.
DHS is a place where Oregonians come for help and hope every day, whether there is a federal shutdown or not. I am always proud to be part of this team, but I am even more grateful for you as we see the tremendous outpouring of care and the extra effort you are putting in to help people impacted by the shutdown. Thank you!