Council member Michael Brown Extends Food Stamp Program

Norma Porter Anthony | 4/14/2010, 10:40 a.m.

More District Residents May Qualify for Food Stamps

When Velle Perkins, a single mother of four boys, applied for food stamps two years ago she was turned down because she made too much money.

The income requirement for a family of five was close to $32,200 and Perkins, an administrative assistant at Catholic University in Northeast, missed the mark by a mere $50.

€I check sale papers, do comparison shopping and cut out coupons, but it costs a lot to feed my family,€ Perkins, a Northwest resident said.

€Sometimes I have to juggle the money around for my bills in order to provide the proper nutrition for my children. My salary hasn€t increased in a few years, but my rent and the food expenses have,€ Perkins, 36, said.

Many employed District residents like Perkins need help to feed their families, but their incomes prevent them from being eligible to participate in the District€s food stamp program. That€s why Council members Michael Brown (I-At-Large) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), with the unanimous support of the D.C. Council, passed the Food Stamp Expansion Act of 2009 to ensure that more District residents benefit from the food stamp program. During a press conference, Tue., April 6 at Bread for the City in Northwest, the two council members announced the kick-off of the food stamp expansion initiative.

€We are gathered here today, at the site of one of our city€s most valued partners in the fight against poverty and hunger, to discuss the challenges and solutions to our city€s growing hunger epidemic,€ Brown said.

€Too many children, families and senior citizens are now in a situation where they are watching the economy get worse. This is the greatest expansion act in the city€s history to change the guidelines to make sure that more people are eligible for food stamps in the District of Columbia.€

The Council expanded the Categorical Eligibility test that measures a resident€s eligibility to receive food stamps by household size and income to include residents with higher gross annual incomes who have high housing and childcare costs.

For example, prior to the Council€s legislative action a family of three with a gross annual income at or below $22,884 was eligible to receive food stamps, but now, a family of three making no more than $37,000 can get food stamps to help with the exorbitant cost of food.

An additional 4,800 District residents will benefit from this program, Brown said.

Now more residents like Perkins will be eligible to receive food stamps.

Alexandra Ashbrook, executive director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, commended Brown for helping struggling residents like Perkins fight poverty and hunger.

€A recent report from the Food Research and Action Center finds that one in five households in the District was not able to afford the food they needed in 2008 and 2009,€ Ashbrook said.

€These dire statistics stress the urgency of connecting every eligible family to the most robust food stamp benefit allowable in the District as swiftly as possible. The Food Stamp Expansion Act of 2009, spearheaded by Council member Michael Brown, will do just that,€ she said.

Perkins agrees with Ashbrook. She said she€s thrilled about the Council€s decision and plans to re-apply for food stamp benefits.

€This is going to be really helpful for parents who want to make sure that their children have healthy choices,€ Perkins said.

€Now that the program is out here, people will use it. We€re in the nation€s capital, we shouldn€t be this hungry.€

George Jones, executive director for Bread for the City, echoed Perkins€ sentiment.

€The District has really taken a progressive step in helping to alleviate some of the suffering that so many people living in poverty in the District experience each day,€ he said.

€At least 150 people in our database now will become eligible for this program. The fact that the District has enacted this new standard or means test for the food stamp program is going to extend the impact of the work that Bread of the City does.€

Katie Kerstetter, a policy analyst at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, said that the new food stamp policy will benefit District residents and the economy alike because residents will use food stamps to support local grocers.

€Economists estimate that a dollar increase in food stamp benefits can generate $1.73 in economic activity, and providing food stamp benefits to more District families means that more dollars will be spent in neighborhood grocery stores.€