ATLANTA -- Grocery shoppers frustrated by long lines and empty shelves on days when Food Stamps are issued could be getting some relief as the state changes its benefit-payout schedule.
The Department of Human Resources announced Wednesday that, starting next month, it will distribute benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over a 19-day period each month instead of the current 10 days. Since many Food Stamp beneficiaries rush to the stores shortly after getting their vouchers, spreading the payouts over an extra nine days will reduce the number of people getting their benefits on any given day.
Recipients no longer get actual stamps. Instead, the money is deposited in bank accounts so they can use a check card at stores that accept them.
“Over $250 million per month is distributed in 10 days often leading to store inventory shortages and empty shelves,” said department spokeswoman Ravae Graham.
The new schedule will also help the Food Stamp users.
“Clients often need to re-visit stores in order to purchase needed food items,” she said. “Clients experience long checkout lines due to staffing issues that arise as a result of the 10-day surge in business to stores.”
During the transition, recipients will get their benefits in two parts, half on their traditional date and half on the new one. The total, monthly benefit won’t change.
To help recipients adjust to the new schedule, the department will send text messages to their smartphones or e-mails each time benefits are deposited in their account.
The members of the Georgia Food Industry Association are helping educate Food Stamp recipients who shop in their grocery stores.
“Almost 900,000 Georgians’ receiving SNAP benefits concentrate their sales in a 10 day period causes operational challenges for the grocery industry,” said Kathy Kuzava, president of the association. “Spreading out the benefits will allow grocers to reduce ‘out of stocks’ and provide better service for all of our customers.”