State set to give food stamps to wealthier people | State policy

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Up to 150,000 households that would otherwise not qualify – some with six-figure wages – are expected to apply for food stamps as qualifications are relaxed to help recovery from Hurricane Ida.

Louisiana has 832,088 people in 401,531 households already receiving food stamps. That’s about 18% of the state’s 4.6 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, because of their low income: $ 34,452 gross per year for a family of four. . SNAP beneficiaries are covered and receive $ 680 per month for groceries – the amount increases by $ 835 on October 1 – so they do not need to enroll in the disaster coverage program.

In the event of a disaster, the US Department of Agriculture extends the rules, as the agency is expected to do this week, to make these benefits accessible to high-income households.

Called D-SNAP, the objective is to help more bourgeois households. Louisiana’s median income is $ 51,073 per year. But the rules are tied to the amount of hurricane damage a survivor suffered, so virtually anyone at all income levels could be eligible based on the amount of damage suffered and their circumstances. individual.

People receiving food stamps in Louisiana will see their benefits increase – about $ 155 more for a family of four – starting October 1, because o…

Because the qualifying formula reduces gross income by the damage fee amount, the State Department of Child and Family Services, called DCFS, cannot say how many wealthy people have qualified in the past. .

“For someone earning a fairly high income but not having access to the income that is coming in now, let’s say their business was closed because of the storm and all of their other resources need to be put into the recovery, then they would probably be eligible, ”said Danny Mintz, director of safety net policy at the Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Budget Project, an organization that studies financial policies and advocates for low- and middle-income people.

“But the important message is that if they think they can win too much to qualify and have suffered losses and are struggling, it would be worth applying,” he added.

Last year, after Hurricane Laura, of 101,000 people who expressed interest, 31,707 households called to make a formal request. Of this number, 25,489 households, representing 52,927 people received D-SNAP.

The state’s Department of Children and Family Services is to estimate for the federal government how many households could apply following Hurricane Ida. The agency must also prepare for a tsunami of nominations once the USDA gives its final approval.

They looked at past experiences of not only Hurricane Laura, which hit southwest Louisiana last year, but also Hurricane Gustav and other storms that affected the same 25 parishes as Ida, as well as investigating the damage caused by the recent storm to make a best estimate of 150,000 applications. .

The agency trains around 700 employees to run a sophisticated computer program in which they will enter a multitude of income and expense numbers, press the button, and be able to immediately tell most applicants if they are eligible and for how much. The benefits are downloaded onto what looks like a credit card that pays for purchases at store cash registers. Cards are sent to D-SNAP recipients.

With the closing of grocery stores and the rapid defrosting of freezers, the state and food banks are scrambling to provide food to hurricane victims.

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DCFS officials are organizing a three-phase operation that would force applicants from specific parishes – those with mail delivery and electricity back on and grocery stores reopened – to call at specific times. DCFS wants waiting times of less than 10 minutes and processing requests in a minimum of time.

Until Hurricane Laura, people had to queue to apply in person. Now, applications are handled by phone, probably from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Even for those who have prequalified, individuals will need to call to officially apply.

Due to the number of named storms that land in Louisiana, DCFS staff are familiar with enforcement issues and know the questions to ask.

“We’re nothing if we don’t have experience here in Louisiana,” said Shavana Howard, DCFS assistant secretary for family support, who oversees D-SNAP. “They will ask you questions about various expenses that you may not have thought of. Did you have to buy dinner? Did you have to buy gasoline?

Like many other things in government, determining eligibility is a complex process.

Very generally, for regular food stamps, the combined gross annual income of a family of four should be $ 34,452 or less. Additionally, when rent and utilities, child support, and other eligible expenses are deducted, net income cannot exceed $ 26,508 per year.

If both gross and net income levels are met, the family of four receives $ 680 each month for groceries.

D-SNAP waives some of the requirements.

For example, there is no gross income standard. The applicant just needs to achieve monthly net income of $ 2,990 or less, which equates to $ 35,880 per year. But the calculations that determine this net income figure include deductions for disaster-related expenses.

DCFS will review the claimant’s take-home pay in the month following the disaster, add any available cash resources, such as checking and savings account balances. Then they subtract from that gross amount the dollars spent or expected to be spent on disaster-related expenses within a 30-day period, which the USDA sets when its order is issued, but will likely begin a few days before that. Hurricane Ida does not make landfall. August 29.

Disaster-related expenses cover a wide range, including food lost in a power outage, home repairs, medical or funeral expenses, appliances and tools, care of dependents, costs of moving, generators, mops and cleaning supplies, even pet boarding costs.

The criteria are written on the DCFS website at http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/360

“Each scenario is so different. You can make $ 150,000 a year, but lose your whole house or close your business or the damage is significant and you might qualify, ”Howard said. “That’s why we generally don’t put income limits, because it changes for each person. What we are saying is… if in doubt, please apply. Let us determine your eligibility.


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