DHHS members step up to slow impact of shut down

Staff had to act fast to ensure food stamps benefits were delivered

Members at DHHS worked through the weekend to ensure those in need would receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.

Members at DHHS worked through the weekend to ensure those in need would receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.

As the partial government shutdown persists, the impact continues to spread. If not for the efforts of dedicated employees at the state Department of Health and Human Services last weekend, thousands of Granite State families would have been left without food stamp benefits.

Two-hundred DHHS employees were called upon to work through the weekend, processing applications and redeterminations submitted by thousands of beneficiaries of the federal SNAP program – commonly known as food stamps. 40,000 families in New Hampshire receive SNAP benefits each month.

“I’m proud but not surprised by the selflessness of these workers – after all, it’s people like them and so many of our other members who keep this state running,” said SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla.

Due to the shutdown, funding for federal SNAP benefits expired on Dec. 21, putting into doubt benefits for the month of February. Luckily, a provision in the spending bill that expired Dec. 21 included a provision to fund SNAP for an additional 30 days – the only catch was that applications needed to be processed quickly to meet a Jan. 15 deadline.

Working straight through the weekend was a sacrifice for these workers, but the alternative – thousands going hungry – was unimaginable.

“When push came to shove, we have one of the most phenomenal teams in our district office,” said Teri Wardner, a Family Services Specialist in the Laconia DHHS district office. “Everyone came in, and we accomplished some phenomenal work in a short period of time.”

Wardner said that the experience even served to strengthen the team bond for workers at the district office.

“So there’s some positive to be found internally, even though the reason we were here wasn’t positive,” Wardner said. “We showed our true colors, and when we have a chance to reflect back, it’s something we can be proud of.”

If the shutdown does not end soon, this particular issue could re-emerge again soon, threatening SNAP benefits beyond the month of February.

“We’ve heard calls from politicians from both sides of the aisle to reopen the government before more people are hurt,” Gulla said. “The longer this stretches on, we’re going to see more stories like this. We need to end this shutdown now.”   

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