Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas announced the early SNAP benefits at a news conference Friday in Chicago.

State officials announced Friday that Illinois residents who rely on federal food assistance will continue to get those benefits through February despite the partial government shutdown.

"The benefits are going to have to be issued early," Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary James Dimas said at a news conference Friday in Chicago.

February benefits will be issued before Jan. 20, about a week and a half earlier than normal, because of a workaround authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture to keep the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, going as the shutdown stretches into its 21st day.

"It's going to be really important that people understand that this is early, not extra," Dimas said. "These benefits have to last them through the end of February. I think we can all appreciate that Illinois is no place to be hungry in February."

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, emphasized that point.

"It's not a bonus, it's an advancement for your February benefit," he said. "It will be important to budget this money appropriately."

SNAP users will get the normal amount of monthly benefits on their Link cards, the debit-like cards used to spend SNAP benefits and other cash assistance, Dimas said.

Brett Rowland is news editor of INN. Email him at

INN News Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.

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