DSS Releases Disaster Food Stamp update given
BATON ROUGE –Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Silverberg Williamson reiterated her call to the federal government to waive the face-to-face interview requirement for Disaster Food Stamp applicants tonight.
“The main reason we requested that waiver was to avoid many of the challenges we faced today,” said Williamson. “This is not an average disaster, we have a very widespread area of people impacted by this storm and they need assistance in a more efficient and timely manner.”
Despite long lines, DSS employees processed 30,290 Disaster Food Stamp applicants from the 31 parishes on Tuesday, September 9. Here is a breakdown of those numbers:
Region One - Orleans, 5,000
Region Two - Baton Rouge, 6,100
Region Three - Covington, 4,000
Region Four - Thibodaux, 2,000
Region Five - Lafayette, 9,400
Region Six - Lake Charles, 1,300
Region Seven - Alexandria, 2,260
Region Eight - Shreveport, 100
Region Nine - Monroe, 130
Total: 30,290; (Applications processed are estimates based on hand counts)
The parishes declared eligible for Disaster Food Stamps are: Acadia, Allen, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Vermilion, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.
Substantial progress has been made to increase capacity with the opening of five new sites Wednesday, including the New Orleans Convention Center and the Alario Center in Jefferson Parish. Louisiana’s Unified Command will ensure all sites have full security and that water is provided to applicants. “These two sites will give us what we were seeking as we began to work with local officials; an indoor site out of the heat of summer,” said Williamson.
Today, the Department of Social Services trained an additional 328 staff to be deployed in these new locations. A call has been sent to each of Governor Jindal’s Cabinet members asking for additional staff to be trained for any new locations that open and to supplement the six highest volume sites which include the Alario Center in Jefferson Parish, St. Maria Goretti Church and Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Mount Pilgrim Baptist and the East Baton Rouge Office of Family Services, Sorrento Civic Center in Ascension, Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette and North Park in Denham Springs. Emergency medical services will also be deployed to these sites.
The Department of Social Services is also working on an additional option to help our elderly population. Council on Aging staff will be trained and enabled to register applicants by Thursday.
After reports of citizens becoming upset when they learned that they are not getting cash cards, Williamson stressed Disaster Food Stamps has strictly defined income eligibility and can only be used for the purchase of food. Williamson announced that she visited the Ag Center in Assumption Parish today and will travel to sites in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes tomorrow to assess the progress being made in this emergency program.
Williamson reminded participants in the regular Food Stamp Program they do not need to apply since their benefits will automatically be lifted to the maximum amount allowable for September and their August benefits have been increased by 20 percent in order to replace lost food.
The Disaster Food Stamp application process will last for at least seven days and DSS will monitor the need for these services in order to determine whether a request for an extension will be necessary.