USDA approves extra month of Disaster Food Stamp Program - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

USDA approves extra month of Disaster Food Stamp Program

From the Department of Social Services Office:

BATON ROUGE -- While the Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS) received confirmation today that seven parishes -- Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion -- have been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a second month of disaster food stamps, Interim Secretary Kristy Nichols said that DSS will continue to push the federal government to qualify those remaining parishes most in need that were affected by Hurricane Ike.

In announcing its decision, the USDA cited current economic data that indicates only seven of the dually impacted parishes need the additional benefits.

"I am pleased the USDA has approved seven parishes for extra benefits, however Louisiana continues to have parishes hit by both Gustav and Ike that remain in need," Nichols said. "I would expect that if officials with the USDA were to visit and see firsthand the hardships that people in many of these parishes continue to face on a daily basis, they would immediately approve benefits in those parishes.

We cannot let bureaucracy delay getting help to those most in need that were affected by these two storms. People in many of these parishes need an additional month to get back on their feet, and I will continue to seek federal approval for this."

The second month of benefits for those in the seven parishes will automatically be loaded onto current Electronic Benefits Transfer disaster cards by the end of the month. If a card has been lost, recipients should request a new card from their local DSS.

Federal policy normally does not allow for more than one benefit period of Disaster Food Stamps per month, no matter how many storms occur during that benefit period. Since Gustav and Ike both hit Louisiana in September, Nichols requested an exception to the USDA policy immediately following Ike's landfall since residents had lost income and incurred disaster-related expenses from two closely occurring storms.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of USDA denied the initial claim "since the hurricanes occurred only 12 days apart in the same benefit month" but agreed to work with DSS to assess the possible need for a second month of disaster food stamps in selected parishes.

FNS began the assessment on October 9 and requested additional economic data for the parishes affected, which DSS, in working with the Department of Economic Development and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, provided.  Specifically, FNS requested:

œ       New and continued Unemployment Insurance claims for the 3 weeks

immediately following the disaster.

œ       Any available data on major employers remaining closed.

œ       Availability of local DSS offices for clients to asses the

regular Food Stamp Program.

During September, DSS issued disaster food stamps in 43 USDA-approved parishes for Hurricane Gustav, 14 of which also were approved for Hurricane Ike. A few weeks later, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved individual assistance programs for six additional Louisiana parishes, bringing to 20 the grand total of Ike-impacted parishes.

Nichols encouraged those recipients in parishes not approved to apply for aid through the regular food stamp program by visiting their local DSS office. Regular food stamp recipients in the seven parishes that have been approved for a second month of disaster food stamp benefits will receive an automatic supplement for month of October to bring them to the maximum monthly allotment for their household size, if they do not already receive the maximum.

You may be eligible for regular food stamp benefits if you:

œ       Receive low wages for work, or

œ       Receive assistance payments such as FITAP or Kinship Care

Subsidy, or

œ       are homeless.

In order to be eligible for regular food stamps, you must also meet an eligibility requirement based on the amount of resources you have in the bank. For most Louisiana residents, the limit is $2,000 or less. If a member of your household has a disability or is 60 years of age or older, that resource limit is $3,000.

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