2012-12-19 / Features

Electeds To Bloomberg: Improve D-SNAP Access

BY JOHN TOSCANO


Crowley was joined by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks and Nydia Velazquez, all Queens Democrats, in signing a letter to Bloomberg. Crowley was joined by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks and Nydia Velazquez, all Queens Democrats, in signing a letter to Bloomberg. Lawmakers from the city called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week to “immediately improve access” to the federal food stamp program for more prospective clients in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“As structured by the city,” Congressmember Joseph Crowley explained, “The program denies access and eligibility to many thousands of New Yorkers suffering the effects of Sandy in their daily lives.”

Crowley was joined by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks and Nydia Velazquez, all Queens Democrats, in signing a letter to Bloomberg. The Queens lawmakers demanded “increased accessibility” to the Disaster Supplemental Food Stamp (D–SNAP) program which was recently enacted by the Department of Agriculture for victims of the recent hurricane.

The program went into effect in NYC on December 12. But the lawmakers said they are “concerned about three elements” of the city’s plan to implement it: the lack of accessibility to the D-SNAP benefit centers for residents of hard hit areas; the short length of time these residents have to apply for these benefits; and the ineligibility of residents in some areas that were badly damaged by flooding.

The letter to the mayor pointed out, “First, we are concerned that the ZIP codes deemed eligible for D–SNAP benefits do not include all of the residents who need these benefits as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Many residents outside of the ZIP codes currently included in D–SNAP are suffering significant financial hardship as a result of damage caused by the storm. We urge you to expand access to D–SNAP benefits to residents in these other ZIP codes, many of whom could benefit from this important federal resource.”

In addition, the lawmakers pointed out the only two application centers are located at a significant distance from many of their constituents who were impacted by the hurricane. This created deep concerns, they said “that the hurdles created by this distance will prevent a significant number of people from easily getting the help they need to feed their families”.

Referring to this group of people, the lawmakers noted that a large number of those who suffered flooding and the loss of basic services throughout the affected area were “clearly the elderly and handicapped”.

They emphasized: “It would be particularly difficult for this population to travel from their homes to the application centers in Downtown Brooklyn or Staten Island.”

Furthermore, the congressmembers stressed, “The city’s solution—that disabled applicants can designate a relative or friend to apply for them— is not feasible for many people. Those residents most affected by Hurricane Sandy should be able to apply for the benefits they are entitled to at locations in their own neighborhoods, such as local food stamp offices and Disaster Recovery Centers, which are already set up for a disaster response in affected areas.”

Continuing to enumerate other portions of the plan, the lawmakers said they were concerned that the length of time affected residents have to apply “is insufficient to allow for the thousands of residents who may be eligible for this program to complete the application process”.

They pointed out, “Many of these residents have been dislocated, and many are juggling work with massive new responsibilities they were forced to take on after the storm, such as cleaning up their homes and businesses, working with their insurance companies, and applying to other benefit programs.”

The lawmakers said their offices had been informed by USDA that it is possible to extend the time that the city can offer D–SNAP benefits. They said that while they recognized that this would require an additional commitment of staff resources to D–SNAP applications, they felt the city should take the necessary steps to permit D–SNAP registration beyond the Wednesday, December 19 deadline.

The Crowley (Queens/The Bronx), Maloney (Queens/Manhattan), Meeks (Southeast Queens), and Velazquez (Queens/Brooklyn) letter to Bloomberg concluded:

“Making it as easy as possible for those affected by Hurricane Sandy to have access to the resources they need to recover will also help our city to rebuild. Allowing survivors better access to relief programs like D–SNAP will mean more people will be able to sign up, which will also translate into more profits for local small businesses such as grocery stores. We must work together to ensure that this important program is fully utilized by those who need it.”

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