2004-06-04 / Community

Legal Services Begins Food Stamp Outreach

Contributing Editor
By Miriam Rosenberg

Legal Services Begins Food Stamp Outreach

By Miriam Rosenberg

Contributing Editor

Under a new Nutrition Outreach and Education Program, the Queens Legal Services Corporation will soon begin assisting residents in the Rockaways and Broad Channel to determine their eligibility for the federal food stamp program.

"We outreach to the community, tell residents that we are available to screen them for food stamps and to assist them with the application progress if, after our initial screening, they may, in fact, be eligible," said Cindy Katz, a Coordinating Attorney with Queens Legal Services.

The 2000 U. S. Census for Community Board 14 (which represents the Rockaways and Broad Channel) shows that the just over 37,000 households have a median household income of $33,815.

The same figures on the Queens Library website are broken down to correspond to the areas surrounding the four branches in Community Board 14. This breakdown reveals that, of those more than 37,000 households, 8,385 are living below the poverty line.

Those numbers do not represent the total households who are eligible for food stamps in the Rockaway and Broad Channel area.

"The Food stamp eligibility level is 130 percent of the federal poverty level," explained Katz. "Those numbers are the numbers of households living below the poverty level. There are a lot more households that would be eligible for food stamps based on these numbers."

Katz cited a December 2002 study by the Community Food Resource Center that showed the high number of people in the Rockaways who were eligible for food stamps.

"One of the things that they did in their study was that they looked at the number of people living in poverty and they estimated that there were approximately 9,000 people living in the Rockaways, in Community District 14, that were potentially eligible for food stamp benefits and not receiving them," said Katz. "When they said potentially eligible they include your income, assets and immigration status."

There are many changes in the rules that govern the food stamp program.

Among the changes are: the value of automobiles are no longer considered in determining assets; if you are a legal immigrant for five years or more in the U. S. you are eligible; and children under the age of 18 are automatically eligible for food stamps.

The income limit for 2004 is $973 per month for one person with total assets under $2,000. A person’s home or 401K are not considered assets.

"Even if they make a little more they may be eligible, because we take their rent or mortgage into consideration, child care and medical expenses," said Lissette Claudio, the Food Stamp Coordinator for Queens Legal Services.

The maximum income limit does not apply for households with elderly or disabled members in them.

Some of the documents that are needed for screenings are social security cards, birth certificates, rent receipts or mortgage stubs, letters from a child’s school, pay stubs, proof of medical expenses and any court order for child support.

In addition to mailings to the pantries and soup kitchens in the area, Queens Legal Services will be at an event sponsored by The Caribbean Women’s Health Association at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Far Rockaway on June 19.

"People should look for us at the community events and speak to us about their potential eligibility and assistance with the application process. That’s what we’re here for," said Katz.

The Nutrition Consortium of New York State, Inc., the New York State Department of Health, the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the U. S. Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Service (USDA/FNS) fund the new program

For more information about Queens Legal Services’ food stamp Nutrition Outreach and Education Program call 718 392-5646, ext. 36.

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