The Chicago Tribune

U.S. Bank offers low-interest loans

The nation’s fifth-largest bank is offering loans in amounts ranging from $100 to $6,000 that can be repaid over 12 months at an annual rate of one-hundredth of a percent.

For someone borrowing $2,500, for instance, the monthly repayment rate would be $208.33.

The offer is available to government employees who are customers of U.S. Bank, including people who use its mortgage, auto loans and credit cards. Contractors and workers at other companies that support the government are not eligible, U.S. Bank said.

— Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Those who receive federal food assistance will get their February benefits early as part of a temporary fix that funds the critical program for another month despite the government shutdown, prompting concerns that people might not budget properly if they don’t know what’s going on.

The funding workaround for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, for another month requires that February benefits be distributed to recipients by Jan. 20.

Retailers that accept SNAP are bracing for the rush that could occur when every SNAP recipient receives benefits at the same time, rather than on a rolling schedule as usual.

“We will see a large uptick in sales over the weekend as they are finding the benefits on their card,” said Hannah Walker, director of government relations for the Food Marketing Institute.

FMI is launching an outreach campaign across all 50 states to urge its members to staff up and stock up for the long weekend Jan. 20.

They are especially encouraging the purchase of nonperishables like produce that are common purchases through SNAP, Walker said.

The organization is urging retailers to educate customers about the early disbursement of SNAP benefits to help people understand they won’t be getting an additional allotment in February, she said.

“We’re all taking very seriously the customer education side,” Walker said.

SNAP, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helps 38 million low-income Americans purchase food, and the budget stalemate has raised grave concerns about food security should the program’s funding is disrupted.

Congress had approved funding for the program only through January.

The USDA said earlier this week that benefits would be continue through February thanks to a provision that allows federal agencies to make certain payments up to 30 days after the budget bill expired Dec. 21

It’s unclear what will happen to the program if the stalemate continues into March.