March's SNAP benefits will be issued early to hundreds of thousands of South Carolina families, due to lingering effects from the shutdown.

Due to the lengthy government shutdown that ended earlier this year, March's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds will be issued early to South Carolina recipients.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services is providing March's SNAP benefits early because of the large gap families would otherwise see between benefits. The gap occurred because benefits for February were issued to families early on Jan. 17 so the program would not be affected by the shutdown.

SNAP issuances will return to normal for the month of April.

These early benefits will be issued March 5. Only SNAP recipients who received February benefits early will receive these early-issued benefits. According to a press release from DSS, this will affect an estimated 231,000 households in South Carolina.

Had the SNAP benefits been released during the usual time, some households would have seen a gap as large as 59 days between issuances. By issuing benefits March 5, this will reduce that gap to 45 days.

The early issuances will not affect other aspects of the program or its rules, such as verification of income. According to the press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructed DSS to accept and process new applications and re-certifications as usual.

People who receive SNAP or have questions about the program can call Aiken County DSS at 803-202-3500 or DSS Connect at 800-616-1309.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.