BOISE -- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps tens of thousands of Idaho families put food on the table each month.
But starting in July, the day people receive their food stamps will move from the first of the month for all recipients, to a staggered 10-day distribution system.
That means many Idahoans on food stamps will have access to their benefits on a different day than they are used to.
"That's the part that we're most concerned about is making sure that our clients and customers and families are educated and that they know about this and that they're not surprised," said Lori Wolff, an administrator for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
According to IDHW, about 82,000 Idaho households are enrolled in the federal food stamp program managed by the state. That's a little less than 12 percent of Idaho's population.
State officials say recipients receive about $115 per month on average.
Beginning July 1, issuance of monthly benefits will be staggered over the first 10 days of the month and food stamp recipients will have access to their monthly benefits based on a date that corresponds with the last digit of their birth year.
For example, if you were born in 1966 you will receive your SNAP benefits on the sixth day of the month. A person born in the year 1970 will receive their benefits on the 10th of each month, and so on.
The Idaho Legislature passed legislation back in 2014 requiring IDHW to move to a staggered food stamp distribution system. Several retailers and grocery store chains pushed for the change because they are often swamped on the first of the month.
A WinCo representative told KTVB on Friday that they're pleased with the change and believe it will help them better serve all of their customers.
But for families on food stamps who have to wait an extra week or more in July to get their monthly benefits, it could be a struggle to adjust.
"Our primary concern is making sure that everybody has access to food for their families," Wolff added.
That's why IDHW is sending notices out in the next few weeks to food stamp recipients. They're also working with local food pantries and the Idaho Foodbank to make sure they know about the change and need for extra support this summer.
"We're really nervous for people that have to go for the first time over 30 days without receiving their food stamps," said Wendy Wong, director of family services for the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army runs a pantry in Boise that's open four days a week. Officials estimate 90 percent of the people who get food from the pantry also receive SNAP benefits. People are only eligible to get food from the Salvation Army every 60 days.
"Our goal in this change is going to be to allow clients to come in even if their 60 days hasn't quite been met," added Wong. That could be 10 or 15 days early in light of the staggered food stamp distribution.
Leaders at St. Vincent de Paul in Boise say they will also relax their 30-day pantry use policy when the staggered distribution goes into effect. In the long run, they believe this change will be a good one, helping to balance out need at local pantries and reduce wait times for food.
If you have questions about the SNAP program or changes to food stamp distribution, you can call the Idaho Department of Welfare at 877-456-1233.
SNAP cardholders will not need a new card come July. You can check the balance of your card by calling JP Morgan at 888-432-4328.