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Use of The Food Stamp Program to Assist - USE OF THE FOOD STAMP .rtf

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					USE OF THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM


                 TO


     ASSIST THE HOMELESS




         December 2002




      Council on Homelessness
                  and
       Office on Homelessness
      1317 Winewood Boulevard
         Bldg. 2, Room 103-A
     Tallahassee, FL 32399-0700
            850/922-4691
         revised by AWI 1/28/03
                                      General Information

Program Description
The Food Stamp Program helps low-income individuals and families buy the food they need for
good health. The amount of food stamp benefits allowed is based on the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s estimate of how much it costs to buy food to prepare nutritious, low-cost meals.
Food stamp benefits are only intended to supplement a family’s food budget and households
must spend some of their own cash along with their food stamp benefits in order to buy enough
food for a month.

Household Status
Individuals who buy and cook food together are considered one household for food stamp
purposes and must have their eligibility considered together. There are certain situations in
which individuals must be considered in the same household, regardless of how they buy and
cook their food. Examples include parents and children under age 22, adults with parental
control over minors in the home, and spouses.

Residence/Citizenship
An individual must be a resident of the state in which they are applying. An individual is a
resident if they are in the state for any purpose other than a vacation. An individual must either
be a citizen of the United States or meet specific qualified non-citizen criteria. Non-citizens are
technically ineligible for food stamps until acceptable documentation of a qualified non-citizen
status is provided. Non-citizens who do not want the Department of Children and Families to
verify their immigration status will be given the option of withdrawing their application or the
other household members may participate without that member.




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                    FOOD STAMP ASSISTANCE TO THE HOMELESS

                                  QUESTIONS & ANSWERS


1.   What are the eligibility requirements for food stamps?

     Eligibility for food stamps is based on the number of people in your household and on
     income limits set each fiscal year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Below are the
     income limits for household size for fiscal year 2002-2003:

                                    Food Stamp Income Limits
                                  Effective 10/01/2002 – 10/01/2003
                   Household Size                       Monthly Gross Income Limit
                            1                                     $ 960
                            2                                     1,294
                            3                                     1,628
                            4                                     1,961
                            5                                     2,295
                            6                                     2,629
                            7                                     2,962
                            8                                     3,296
                            9                                     3,630
                           10                                     3,964
            For each additional member add:                       $ 344


2.   How do I apply for food stamps?

     Go to your local Department of Children and Families (DCF) Service Center. You will fill
     out a one-page application and an intake clerk will tell you if you meet the basic income
     limits for eligibility. The clerk will give you a list of documents to bring to a future meeting
     with an Economic Self-Sufficiency Specialist (caseworker). The clerk will set up an
     appointment for you to see the caseworker who will determine your eligibility and tell you
     the amount of food stamp benefits you will receive if you are eligible.

3.   What identification do I need to take when I apply for food stamps?

     If you are single, take your social security card and a driver’s license or some form of
     identification with your picture on it. If you are applying for yourself and your household,
     take your social security card, your picture identification, and the social security numbers
     for everyone in your household who buys, prepares and eats food together. You don’t
     need to take the social security cards for everyone in the household, but be sure to have
     their social security numbers with you when you apply.




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4.   I lost all my identification. Can I still get help?

     Yes. The DCF Service Center can help you apply for new items of identification, or they
     can tell you where to go to apply for new identification. If you, or anyone in your
     household, have recently applied for a new social security card, proof that the application
     has been submitted may serve as proof of identification.

5.   I don’t have money for food right now. How can I get help quickly?

     First, apply for “expedited” food stamps at your local DCF Service Center. “Expedited”
     food stamps simply means that your case will be processed quickly, and, if you are
     eligible, your benefits should be available within 7 to 10 working days.

6.   What do I do for food in the meantime?

     When you apply for food stamp benefits, tell the interview clerk or a caseworker that you
     need food immediately. Usually, DCF Service Centers keep lists of local food pantries,
     soup kitchens, shelters, and other local social service organizations where you may get
     something to eat. You may also contact your local homeless coalition for help in getting
     the food you need.

7.   Someone told me that food stamps are given on a credit card. Can’t I just get paper
     stamps?

     Paper food stamps are no longer available. In order to prevent fraud and to make the
     process a lot safer and easier, food benefits are now issued on a plastic Electronic
     Benefits Transfer Card called an EBT card. You “swipe” the card through the little machine
     at the grocery checkout counter just like you would a credit card. The cost of your food is
     automatically deducted from your food stamp balance.

8.   I don’t have a home or a mailing address. How will I get my EBT card?

     After your eligibility for food stamps has been determined, the EBT card and Personal
     Identification Number (PIN) are delivered a few days apart in the mail. If you do not have a
     home and a mailbox or post office box, you may do the following:

        Ask to use a friend or family member's address on your food stamp application.
        Ask a homeless shelter if you can use their address. Many homeless shelters let
         people use their addresses for important mail.
        Ask another social service provider (social service agency, soup kitchen, homeless
         coalition office, food pantry, etc.) if you can use their address.
        Ask about General Delivery at the post office. Be sure to ask how long your mail will be
         held, and return to pick up your mail on a regular basis.

9.   I move around a lot. Sometimes I stay at a shelter and sometimes I stay with friends. Will
     the food stamp office I go to for help change, or can I keep going to the same office?

     If you change addresses, particularly if you move to another county in Florida, be sure to
     notify your caseworker. He or she will be able to determine whether you are still in the
     same district or whether you need to change to another district’s office.



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10.   What can I buy with my EBT card? Are there items that I cannot buy?

      You can buy food and food products that are intended for human consumption.

      You cannot purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco, hot food, hot food products prepared
      to be eaten immediately, cleaning supplies, paper products or other household items.

      You cannot sell or trade food stamp benefits; buy non-food items; use food stamps to buy
      food for someone who is not a member of your household.


11.   I do not have any transportation or I am disabled/sick or elderly. How can I apply for food
      stamps?

      There are several options, although at least one face-to-face interview with a caseworker
      is required.

         Many homeless shelters, homeless coalitions, soup kitchens, churches, and social
          service organizations have food stamp applications on hand. Ask for an application at
          one of those places. In some cases, the staff will help you fill out the application and
          they may be able take it to the food stamp office for you. After the application is
          received and processed, you will be given an appointment to see a caseworker.
         If you have a place to receive mail, call your local DCF Service Center and ask to have
          an application form mailed to you. You may fill out the form and take it to the service
          center, mail it in, or ask someone to fax it. After the application is received and
          processed, you will be given an appointment to see a caseworker.
         The application (called a “Request for Assistance”) form is available on the DCF web
          site. You might ask a social service agency to print out the application from their
          computer. Fill out the application and mail it in to your closest DCF Service Center.
          After the application is received and processed, you will be given an appointment to
          see a caseworker.
         If you are in the hospital, the hospital’s social worker will be able to help you apply for
          food stamps.
         You may apply for food stamps at your local Social Security Administration office.
         If you are very ill or disabled and cannot get to the DCF office, you may call and
          arrange for a caseworker to visit you.
         Although a face-to-face interview is normally required in order to establish eligibility for
          food stamp benefits; exceptions include the option of a waiver of a face-to-face
          interview for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, mental or physical
          disability, advanced age, or illness.

12.   My family and I live in our car right now. If I apply for food stamps, will my children be
      taken away?

      Unless the children show obvious signs of neglect or abuse, you should not be at risk of
      losing your children just because you are homeless.




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13.   I am 45-years-old with no wife, no children, no home, and no job. How do I get food
      stamps?

      Single people between the ages of 18 and 50 with no dependents should apply for food
      stamps first. Your caseworker will determine if you should be exempted or deferred from
      work or training requirements. If you are not exempt, you will be referred to an Agency on
      Workforce Innovation (AWI) One-Stop Center (often located in the same building or office
      as the food stamp office) to register for work or a workfare program. You may also arrange
      to get further training or education through the One-Stop Center.

14.   I am single with no children and I work in a labor pool when I can. Will I be eligible for food
      stamps?

      You may be eligible for food stamps. Go to your local DCF Service Center to apply. You
      may be required to participate in work or training programs.

15.   I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can I get food stamps?

      Yes, because you qualify for SSI, you are “categorically” (or technically) eligible for food
      stamps. Apply at your local DCF Service Center. You may also fill out the application for
      food stamps at your Social Security office.

16.   My family is receiving, or is eligible to receive, insurance through Healthy Families Florida.
      Are we eligible for food stamps?

      Your family may be “categorically” eligible to receive food stamps. In other words, because
      you qualify for Healthy Families Florida, you are also eligible to receive food stamps. Be
      sure to tell your caseworker about your Healthy Families Florida eligibility.

17.   My family and I are homeless and we receive TANF (temporary cash assistance) benefits.
      Are we eligible for food stamps too?

      Again, you and your household may be “categorically” eligible to receive food stamps. Be
      sure to tell your caseworker that you receive TANF. Remember, the same is true if you are
      single and receive SSI.




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                                     Council on Homelessness
                                  Food Stamp Program Policy Questions

The following questions concern current and long-range Food Stamp Program policy. The questions were posed by
the Council on Homelessness to the Department of Children and Families’ Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency
Services, managers of the Food Stamp Program in Florida. The Council’s purpose in asking the questions was to
determine possible food stamp policy planning as it applies to homeless people in Florida.

   1. Re-certification of eligibility for public assistance can be exceedingly difficult for homeless households,
      particularly because of their request need to relocate, their lack of reliable transportation, and other
      constraints.

       Is the Department providing the maximum flexibility allowed under federal law with respect to the following:

       A. Maximum duration of periods of continuous eligibility?

           Based on applicant circumstances, assistance groups are assigned the longest entitlement period
           possible.

       B. Certification by means other than face-to-face interviews at a Department service center?

           Although a face-to-face interview is normally required in order to establish eligibility for food stamp or
           temporary cash assistance benefits; exceptions provided for in federal regulations and included in
           Department policy, include the option of a waiver of a face-to-face interview for a number of reasons,
           including, but not limited to, mental or physical disability, advanced age, or illness.

       C. Maximum grace with respect to sanctions or termination due to failure to respond to notices to the
          recipients, which they might not have received?

           Issues with recipient failure to attend re-certification appointments and program non-compliance
           sanctions have consistently been obstacles to the continuity of services. Eligibility staff provide
           applicants with as much information as possible during the initial eligibility and complete review
           interviews in order to support the delivery of services.

   2. The Council understands and appreciates the Department’s statement that the fact a family with minor
      dependents applying for public assistance is homeless, does not automatically trigger a referral to child
      protective services.

       What specific criteria do the Department’s eligibility specialists use in making the decision regarding
       whether or not to initiate such a referral? Is this criteria formalized in policy, and is it explained to the staff
       conducting the eligibility determination, as a part of their training?




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    Staff is instructed to report any suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of any aged person, disabled
    adult, or child. Economic Self-Sufficiency pre-service (training) material provides staff with examples of
    situations that should be reported to the abuse hotline.

    The specific criteria staff use in determining whether an abuse report is warranted is outlined in chapter
    39.201 of Florida Statutes: “Any person…who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is
    abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for
    the child’s welfare shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the department…”

3. What other untapped flexibility does or will the State have with respect to determining eligibility and benefit
   levels that would help increase and sustain access by homeless persons or families? (This may include
   currently available policy options, as well as those that may be available as a result of recent
   reauthorization of the Food Stamp Program by Congress.)

    Eligibility and benefit level parameters are set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition
    Service in Washington, D.C. State options and waivers are evaluated regularly, with focus on streamlining
    the eligibility process, in order to support expanded delivery of services, while also maintaining program
    integrity.

4. Could the Department implement any of the following:

    A. Expansion of categorical food stamp eligibility to additional populations not currently covered, that are
       likely to include high proportions of homeless people or people at risk of homelessness, such as
       households receiving certain TANF-funded services, or homeless households generally?

        Yes. Effective October 1, 2002, we expanded our definition of categorical eligibility to include all
        families that are receiving or authorized to receive services through Healthy Families Florida.

    B. Outpost eligibility determination specialists, or use of other aids when determining eligibility, or re-
       certification in settings or facilities that provide services to the homeless?

        Yes. The Department does have eligibility specialists out-posted in a number of sites including county
        health departments and local hospitals, in order to support outreach services

    C. Use of other State-option waivers, or provisions not currently utilized, that would increase or improve
       access?

        Please refer to the response to question 3.

5. A provision in federal regulations allows homeless shelters to receive food stamps on behalf of residents in
   order to assure that those residents receive nutritious meals. To the Council’s knowledge, this arrangement
   is currently not permitted in Florida. What actions on the part of the Department and/or homeless service
   providers are necessary to allow this provision to be utilized?

    Current Department policy allows homeless assistance groups to use their food stamp benefits to purchase
    prepared meals from homeless meal providers that have been approved as such by the agency, and



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    authorized as retailers by the USDA/FNS. Food stamp regulation 7CFR 273.2(n)(4)(D) specifically prohibits
    homeless meal providers from acting as authorized representatives for homeless individuals.

6. On a related note, it is alleged that some homeless persons are not allowed to receive food stamps directly
   because they reside in an “institution that provides more than 50 percent of their meals.” It is the Council’s
   understanding that this provision does not apply to persons residing in a temporary homeless shelter.

    Is the Council’s understanding correct? How does the Department interpret and enforce this requirement,
    particularly given that the Department has no formal method of determining what constitutes a temporary
    homeless shelter in Florida?

    Residents of public or private non-profit shelters for homeless individuals are not considered residents of an
    institution for food stamp purposes. Residence in a non-profit homeless shelter does not preclude eligibility
    for the Food Stamp Program.




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