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Va. alters food stamp schedule to help stores

Wednesday - 7/4/2012, 12:12pm  ET

NORFOLK, Va. - Virginia consumers could see shorter grocery store checkout lines at the first of every month due to a change in the state's schedule for issuing food stamps.

Currently, the Department of Social Services issues monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits at the first of every month to about 440,000 households in Virginia.

The department plans to stagger the disbursement of benefits and issue them on the first, fourth, seventh and ninth days of the month. The day will be determined by the last digit of a recipient's case number.

The new schedule will be in effect by October.

Retailers requested the change, saying it is difficult for them to keep their shelves stocked at the beginning of the month, said Tom Steinhauser, director of division benefit programs for social services.

"The idea is to make sure that retailers can keep their shelves stocked so everyone is not running to the grocery store at the first of the month," Steinhauser told The Virginian Pilot ( http://bit.ly/NU2sPF).

The Retail Alliance, an advocate for retailers, has sought the change for about two years, spokeswoman Margaret Ballard said. She said similar switches in other states have worked well.

"The retailers wanted to keep their customers happy, so they thought that staggering the benefits would be a very good solution," Ballard said. "Hopefully, it will work better for everybody _ the retailers, recipients, general customers _ so they'll have better access to inventory on the first of the month."

Steinhauser said about 60 percent of Virginia's SNAP recipients will experience a slight delay during the two-month transition period. Recipients will be sent letters explaining the change.

"We're not waiting for the state; when we see our clients coming in for reviews, we're briefing them," said Earl Ford, financial assistance division director for the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services. "We're trying to get ahead of the curve."

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)