DHHS announced this week that SNAP benefits will come early next month and some families will be getting a raise.

It was announced on the DHHS website this week that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits for March would be paid on March 3rd, for anyone who normally gets their benefits between the 10th and 14th of the month. This decision was made in order to help minimize the strain caused by the fact that February's benefits were paid on January 17th, because of the partial federal government shutdown.

A more permanent change will affect working families, who will start seeing a huge increase in the amount of benefits they receive. Anyone who qualifies for SNAP benefits and who works at least 30 hours a week, or 20 hours if they have a child less than 6 years old, will see an increase from $15 to $50 per month. The increase will affect approximately 13,000 working families.

DHHS plans to use existing unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant funds to raise the Working Families Supplement Benefit, which is a monthly benefit added to the SNAP program's electronic benefit cards. DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says there are sufficient TANF funds to support the $5.7 million annual cost of the change that was authorized by the Maine State Legislature in 2011.

Lambrew says the funds are meant to help working families bridge the gap between collecting benefits and becoming self-sufficient. That population is most at risk for 'falling off the cliff' that occurs when families lose their benefits before their personal incomes can meet their basic needs.