Ind. food stamp distribution dates being changed

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana residents receiving food stamps will begin getting their monthly benefits on new dates under a state law approved earlier this year as part of an effort to improve what is available at area grocery stores, officials with the Family and Social Services Administration announced Monday.

More than 900,000 residents receive their monthly benefits between the first and the 10th of each month, but grocery store owners in low-income areas had complained they would often run out of goods at the start of each month. Lawmakers approved a measure earlier this year stretching out when benefits are delivered, and the FSSA set a new calendar that distributes benefits every other day from the fifth of the month through the 23rd.

Grocery stores and convenience stores had always felt a crush of recipients buying up key items at the start of each month, but it gotten worse as the number of food stamp recipients grew in the wake of the recession, said Joe Lackey, president of the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association, which lobbies for grocery stores.

"They can't keep up with the stock, they can't keep up with the employees and it's not the best experience for recipients," Lackey said. He praised FSSA's work and said the changes should make it easier for those stores to keep pace with demand.

The average food stamp recipient -- typically one parent with one child -- gets about $274 a month, FSSA said. That amount will be split into two checks next month, before the new calendar takes effect in February 2014 and recipients return to getting one payment each month.

The change in schedule will not mean a change in benefits but does follow a few months after food stamp benefits included in the federal stimulus bill were cut. FSSA officials said they have been trying to let as many recipients know about the change as possible, through direct communication and a coordinated advertising campaign.

"The key message here is: Plan ahead," said Marni Lemons, an FSSA spokeswoman.

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