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12/18/14 Press: "Food Stamp Reforms Ruining Christmas"; Triage suggestions for fixing SNAP closed cases over holidays

The following news story came over the wire late Thursday: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/4w7epw/food-stamp-reforms-are-ruining-christmas-1218.  The story reports on families from Merrimack Valley struggling to get benefits and includes a statement from SEIU regarding the woefully understaffed offices.
 
"Jason Stephany, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 509, which represents DTA workers, said the system has struggled to process applications, due in part to a lack of manpower. "When we are short staffed by upward of 200 workers, the result has been significant delays and backlogs that are undoubtedly impacting eligibility, recertification, and those who receive benefits," he told me. "We hear from clients every day who are waiting two, three hours in the DTA offices to try to submit information, ask questions."
 
While photo EBT at the check out line is certainly one issue, accessing SNAP benefits at all is an even larger issue right now. 
 
Here are some immediate advocacy tips if you have low income clients whose SNAP has been reduced, denied, or terminated - or simply lost in the huge bucket of delayed documents that remain unprocessed at the Taunton EDMC: 
  • Call the DTA Assistance Line and keep calling til you get a DTA worker. If the DTA staff will not reopen the case or cannot find the documents that you or your client sent, ask to speak with an on-duty Supervisor.
  • If the DTA Assistance line cannot find the documents in BEACON - or is unable/unwilling to reopen the case for any reason -  ask to speak to the area Office Director. We have heard that documents that have been submitted but not acted on (which is now in the thousands), are causing some DTA workers to tell clients they must reapply. If all mandatory documents have been received within 60 days from the date of application or recertification, the client does not need to reapply and DTA should be able should be able to reopen the case. This may involve a "work around" to do so, which the office Director can likely resolve. 
  • If all else fails, call the local State Rep or State Senator and ask them if they would contact DTA. It also provides an opportunity for your elected officials to learn what is going on.  
  • Keep track of what you are seeing and hearing, including the names of the DTA staff with whom you talk. Be sure to THANK any DTA staff who try to assist you, but keep at it so your clients do not go hunger.