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RICHMOND-- Virginia is beginning a staggered payment schedule for issuing food stamps.

The state Department of Social Services says the staggered schedule for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is scheduled to begin Saturday but changes will take full effect in October.

Benefits are issued monthly to about 440,000 households in the state. Virginia was one of only nine states issued benefits on the first day of each month.

Retailers requested the change, saying it is difficult for them to keep their shelves stocked at the beginning of the month.

Media sources say that the department will stagger the disbursement of benefits and issue them on the first, fourth, seventh and ninth days of the month. The day will be determined by the last digit of a recipient's case number.

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