Tag Archive | "food stamps"

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Connecticut Man Goes Weeks Without Food After DSS Delays Food Stamps

Updated Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.

HARTFORD — For almost three weeks, Al Lopez went hungry in Connecticut. He was alone and bedridden in Avon after he returned from the John Dempsey Hospital in May. The cupboards were empty. The electricity was off. But Northeast Utilities, Community Renewal Team and other social agencies said no to his plea for help. So Lopez lived on just sugar and water for those three weeks until a neighbor returned from a business trip. Lopez then limped down the stairs to talk to his neighbor, who called 911. After being in the emergency room for hours, the nurses admitted him into the hospital’s psychiatric unit, where he stayed for three days and was released. The doctors deduced he was hungry — not mentally ill.

This experience was a first for the soft-spoken, 43-year-old man with a Jamaican lilt.

“It was an unpleasant experience,”  said Lopez who now stays with a relative. “I survived it.”

Hunger, that uneasy or painful experience caused by lack of food, affects about 390,000 people in Connecticut each year, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center. In May 2015, about one in seven people nationwide received help from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or Food Stamps. And about one in nine were unemployed or underemployed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lopez, an Afro-Latino who recently emigrated from Jamaica, went hungry for almost three weeks, he said, because his caseworkers and state officials said he “wasn’t eligible” for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. So he was denied food stamps by the Department of Social Services while he was underemployed and then unemployed. Community Renewal Team also delayed energy assistance applications for several months; and the Connecticut Light and Power company, now called Eversource, refused to reduce his relative’s electric bill because of perceived fraud.

Previous research shows that many immigrants do not apply for food stamps or know that this and other social services exist. Like Lopez, they are denied services,  or get delayed assistance while they integrate into their new home. Since 2000, about 50 percent of immigrant households with little or no education received social services. Prior to that, most immigrants would do two or three menial jobs. Now, experts say, they are assimilated into the welfare system instead of jobs with livable wages. And in some cases educated black immigrants are pushed out of white-collar jobs and onto welfare.

A recent immigrant adjusting to work, school and life in America, Lopez received little or no help from the social agencies he signed up with when he lost his job as a customer representative at Big Y in Avon.  Last fall, Gifts of Love turned him away, saying they were not taking new applicants. So he went to Hartford Hospital, and they placed him in the Institute of Living mainly, he said, because they didn’t understand him, his accent and his customs. He was just anxious about his new home, how to find another job and how to cope with the loss of his mother before he was attacked by nativists in Hartford, he said. After relatives called 911, Hartford police officers took him to Capitol Region Mental Health Center, a community-based mental health facility operated by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The staff there failed to secure food stamps and Medicaid for him.

Lopez’s Case Manager, Morris Mendez, said he did the paperwork and did not know why Lopez was denied.  So Lopez followed up with his clinician at Capitol Region in Hartford, Roxanne Ellis-Denby.

“Unfortunately, you get the most help when you are in hospitals or jails,” said Ellis-Denby, who is Lopez’s clinician for about three years. “And he’s not eligible for food stamps or Medicaid until after five years here.”

Lopez’s eligibility is clear.

According to DSS’s website, every Connecticut resident (citizens and non citizens), whose income and assets are within the set limits are eligible for food stamps. Lopez was in school and work until October 2014. Because of being misdiagnosed, his clinician scheduled frequent visits to Capitol Region, so he could get help with other social services, he said. After his last visit to Capitol Region in October, he has been without a job and has zero income.

When asked why he was put in a psych ward in May, he said, they told him he had “anxieties.”

Civil Rights Advocate said that anxiety is not a reason to be in a mental institution. Lopez’s experience is only about someone adjusting to a new home or a process of acculturation, not mental illness, they said. Besides, even if he was a recent immigrant, there’s absolutely no reason DSS should delay or deny food stamps to someone unemployed, underemployed, sick or homeless,” they said.

But representatives in Hartford’s DSS office did, even though there is no backlog, according to DSS spokesman David Dearborn.

“In fact, we have an over 96 percent timeliness rate for SNAP application processing in the last six-month period evaluated by the federal government, which runs from October 2014 through March 2015,” he said. “Our internal data show that we have been maintaining that excellent rate to date.”

Lopez’s experience with DSS contradicts that prevailing trend at the department.

When contacted, a representative in the Hartford office said Lopez was denied in 2012 and 2014 when he was ill and underemployed. And despite submitting all the required documents, his application has been delayed since April 2015.

Some immigrant advocates believe Lopez is a victim of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Hartford and beyond.

Hate group membership has expanded since 2005 — fueled largely by anti-immigrant sentiment. But after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, it spiked. That’s according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks right-wing extremists and hate groups.

Black immigrants, they say, are subjected to a particular brand of nativism—akin to the ethno-racism found among the Irish community in the early 1900s. It is now pervasive among African Americans, who are in these positions to help black immigrants but often failed to do so, they said.

Xenophobia among native-born blacks is a disturbing trend in the age of Obama, the first African-American president in the United States. And many native-born blacks now believe they “are more endowed with more rights” than black immigrants, who are pushed away by African-American and Hispanic communities. So they, “fall between the cracks,” advocates said.

Lopez is of one of many who fell between those cracks in a xenophobic society spurred by immigration reform debates since 2007.

“There is a damaging immigration narrative that is largely predicated on anti-Blackness,” said Marybeth Onyeukwu, in Truthout. “ However, there are recent attempts to discuss immigration in a way that is inclusive of the Black immigrant experience,” disallowing the erasure of Black immigrants.

Despite a ban on discrimination based on national origin and ancestry, Lopez’s situation seems to be an anomaly or a result of unconscious bias, which consists of a series of micro aggressions toward black immigrants — even from native born blacks. This incredible incident of hunger in Connecticut is, therefore, the cumulative effect of a blatant indifference toward someone’s need for help, advocates say. And black immigrants from the West Indies are less likely than Hispanic immigrants to feel empowered about exercising their constitutional rights, said Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Joyce Hamilton-Henry.

“Hispanic immigrants have unabashed demands that they have equal protection,” she said. “West Indians (some of whom are Afro-Latinos) are not as politically empowered.”

Accessing welfare and other programs—including jobs—can be seen as an indication that some immigrants have a difficult time assimilating in America. Black immigrants from the West Indies, pushed out of jobs because of anti-immigrant sentiments and other reasons, are now often assimilated into the welfare system, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

“When anti-immigrant sentiments are present,” Hamilton-Henry said, “all of us are threatened.”

The delayed SNAP application left Lopez food deficient for about a month. He called DSS and was put on hold for more than 70 minutes. As of press time, he’s still waiting for his application to be approved.

The story is based on the experiences of volunteers with the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, which publishes The Hartford Guardian. The name Al Lopez was used to protect the source used in this story.


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Food Stamp Customers Eligible For Aid

HARTFORD — Current recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) can apply for replacement benefits if they lost food from storm-related power outage, Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said today.

To be eligible, recipients must have lost food costing more than 15 percent of their October SNAP benefit amount. Reports may be made by calling 2-1-1 or visiting www.211ct.org by midnight Saturday, Nov. 19.

Determination of replacement benefits will be made after return and review of signed affidavits, in accordance with federal rules.

Commissioner Bremby said the over-15% threshold for reporting food loss stems from the federal government already approving across-the-board replacement of 15% of October benefits for SNAP recipients in Connecticut. The Department of Social Services is issuing those federal replacement benefits to SNAP recipients Thursday, Nov. 17.

Benefits are issued through ATM-style debit cards for purchasing only federally-approved items at supermarkets and groceries.

No ‘Disaster SNAP’ for October snowstorm

Commissioner Bremby noted that so-called ‘Disaster SNAP’ benefits will not be available from the federal government for October snowstorm losses, as they were after Tropical Storm Irene.

To apply for federal approval of Disaster SNAP, states must be granted a major disaster declaration that includes Individual Assistance. Preliminary damage assessments of uninsured major damage to homes from the October snowstorm showed that the state would not meet the FEMA threshold for the FEMA Individual Assistance Program.



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Eating Healthy on Food Stamps

New America Now, Audio, Sandip Roy,

Yoav Potash joins Sandip Roy to discuss his new film Food Stamped, which follows Potash and his wife for one week as they attempt to eat a healthy and balanced meal on only food stamps.



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CT Social Services Cases Show Significant Increase

HARTFORD — Connecticut residents are increasingly turning to state government for help in meeting the basic needs of food, medical care and financial support, as the economic downturn continues, according to a report released by the Department of Social Services.

Nine key social services programs showed total enrollment of nearly 924,000 in November 2009 – up 18 percent in just one year, Commissioner Michael P. Starkowski said  in the release today.

While individuals are counted more than once if receiving multiple services, such as medical and food aid, the numbers still represent a “tremendous increase in safety net services for the public and a corresponding increase in casework,” Starkowski said.

Enrollment has increased significantly in Food Stamps, the HUSKY health care program for children and eligible parents and in State-Administered General Assistance, which helps single, unemployable people.

Individual program growth highlights include:

  • Over 295,600 Connecticut residents receiving federally-funded Food Stamp benefits in November 2009, up 32 percent in one year.
  • Over 445,700 individuals receiving Medicaid coverage in November 2009, up 7 percent in one year.  Medicaid accounts for over $4 billion of the over $5 billion annual social services appropriation.
  • For the first time in several years, more families with dependent children (including grandparents caring for grandchildren) eligible for Temporary Family Assistance, generally known as family cash welfare.  Connecticut’s TFA caseload plummeted from about 57,000 families in 1995 to under 18,500 in November 2008, but has since risen to 19,689.

To track caseload growth, DSS listed client participation across nine selected entitlement programs – Temporary Family Assistance; Medicaid (including HUSKY Part A); state-funded medical assistance; CT AIDS Drug Assistance Program; State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) cash assistance; SAGA medical assistance; Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps); and the Charter Oak Health Plan.

The enrollment numbers showed one-year increases ranging from 5.3 percent in State-Administered General Assistance cash aid to 42 percent in the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, which helps low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities afford the cost of Medicare premiums, the report said.

CT Department of Social Services Entitlement caseload growth:

November 2004 to November 2009, points in time

Program Recipients served,

November 2004


served, November


Recipients served,




served, November 2009

Pct. Inc., last 5 years Pct. Inc., last 3 years Pct. Inc., past year
Temporary Family Assistance 48,964 in 22,292 households 41,851 in 19,574 households 39,189 in 18,492 households 42,469 in 19,689 households




Medicaid (including family, aged/blind/disabled, long-term care)








State-funded Medical, including DCF, CT Home Care Program 5,471 4,182 5,179 5,475



CT AIDS Drug Assistance Program 1,543 1,717 1,852 1,992 29% 16% 7.6%
State-Administered General Assistance/Medical








State-Administered General Assistance/Cash








Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program








Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program








Charter Oak

Health Plan

Not applicable Not applicable 2,687 12,314 358%

658,971 704,558 782,753 923,986 40% 31% 18%

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Rell Increases Food Stamp Benefits

HARTFORD — Responding to the increased number of residents seeking assistance during the recession, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced yesterday that will boost montly benefits for those who qualify for Food Stamp aid.

The federal stimulus funding is expected to help more than 230,000 Connecticut residents who need help stretching their household budgets.

As of April 1, the new federal aid means an average increase of $38 in benefits per enrolled household in Food Stamps — a long-time program now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Governor noted that applications and enrollments are up sharply, as more Connecticut residents seek help from the federally-funded food assistance program in these difficult economic times.

“These funds will be a tremendous help to Connecticut families and will help serve important needs,” Rell said. “In just over a year, we have seen an increase of more than 14,000 households joining the program which clearly indicates the impact of the recession on our families and single adults.”

“The national downturn has affected many families who never before have needed to seek assistance,” Rell said. “The increased benefits will help many families who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to make ends meet.”

Nearly 125,000 households were eligible this February, compared to just over 110,000 in January 2008.  This is an increase of more than 1,000 households a month, according to the release.

More specifically, 124,769 households in Connecticut were eligible for SNAP in February (230,350 individuals, including 90,343 who are children.)

A family of four at the lowest income levels will now be eligible for a maximum of $668 per month, up from $588 before the stimulus dollars kicked in.  Across the program, state officials estimate that the average benefit increase will be $38.  Specific benefit amounts are geared to income and household size.

In her 2010-2011 budget recommendation, Rell has increased the income-eligibility limit from 130% to 185% of the federal poverty level so that more Connecticut families can qualify.  For a family of four, the current income limit per month is $2,297. Under Rell’s recommendation, a family of four could earn up to $3,268 and still qualify for food assistance benefits.

A household’s specific benefit is based on the household’s income and certain allowable deductions for shelter, dependent care expenses, medical costs and child support payments to others outside the household.

Households that qualify for the program receive an electronic benefit transfer card, similar to debit cards – not stamps or coupons – to use at food markets.

For more information, or to apply for benefits, please visit www.ct.gov/SNAP, or contact a local office of the Connecticut Department of Social Services.

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