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Letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg - D-SNAP

Today, U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Joseph Crowley, Eliot Engel, Edolphus Towns, and José E. Serrano called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to immediately improve access to the federal Disaster Supplemental Food Stamp (D-SNAP) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As structured by the City, the program denies access and eligibility to many thousands of New Yorkers suffering the effects of Sandy in their daily lives. In a letter sent today to Mayor Bloomberg, the Members demanded increased accessibility to D-SNAP benefit centers in hard hit areas of the city; extended periods for applying for the benefits; and an expanded zone of eligibility to include all those New Yorkers whose neighborhoods were badly damaged by flooding. Lower Manhattan State and City elected officials, led by State Senator Daniel Squadron, are simultaneously sending a similar letter to the City.

"We urge you to expand access to D-SNAP benefits to residents in these other zip codes, many of whom could benefit from this important federal resource," wrote the Members. And, "[w]e are deeply concerned that the hurdles created by this distance will prevent a significant number of people from easily getting the help they need to feed their families. A large number of those who suffered flooding and loss of basic services throughout the affected areas are elderly and handicapped."

The Members continued: "Making it as easy as possible for those affected by Hurricane Sandy to have access to the resources they need to recover will also help our city rebuild. Allowing survivors better access to relief programs like D-SNAP will mean more people will be able to sign up, which will also translate into more profits for local small businesses such as grocery stores. We must work together to ensure that this important program is fully utilized by those who need it."

Below is the full text of the letter:

December 12, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

City Hall

New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

We are pleased to learn that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the Disaster Supplemental Food Stamp (D-SNAP) program for New York Hurricane Sandy victims, which New York City plans to distribute beginning today, December 12th. However, we are concerned about three elements of the City's plan: the lack of accessibility to the D-SNAP benefit centers for residents of hard-hit areas; the short length of time these residents have to apply for these benefits; and the ineligibility of residents in some areas that were badly damaged by flooding.

First, we are concerned that the zip codes deemed eligible for D-SNAP benefits do not include all of the residents who need these benefits as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Many residents outside of the zip codes currently included in D-SNAP are suffering significant financial hardship as a result of damage caused by the storm. We urge you to expand access to D-SNAP benefits to residents in these other zip codes, many of whom could benefit from this important federal resource.

Additionally, the only two application centers are located at a significant distance from many of our constituents who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We are deeply concerned that the hurdles created by this distance will prevent a significant number of people from easily getting the help they need to feed their families. A large number of those who suffered flooding and loss of basic services throughout the affected areas are elderly and handicapped. It would be particularly difficult for this population to travel from their homes to the application centers in downtown Brooklyn or Staten Island. The City's solution--that disabled applicants can designate a relative or friend to apply for them--is not feasible for many people. Those residents most affected by Hurricane Sandy should be able to apply for the benefits they are entitled to at locations in their own neighborhoods, such as local food stamp offices and Disaster Recovery Centers, which are already set up for a disaster response in affected areas.

In addition, we are concerned that the length of time affected residents have to apply is insufficient to allow for the thousands of residents who may be eligible for this program to complete the application process. Many of these residents have been dislocated, and many are juggling work with massive new responsibilities they were forced to take on after the storm, such as cleaning up their homes and businesses, working with their insurance companies, and applying to other benefit programs. Our offices have been informed by USDA that it is possible to extend the time that the City can offer D-SNAP benefits. While we recognize that this would require an additional commitment of staff resources to D-SNAP applications, we ask that the City take the necessary steps to permit D-SNAP registration beyond the Wednesday, December 19th deadline.

Making it as easy as possible for those affected by Hurricane Sandy to have access to the resources they need to recover will also help our city rebuild. Allowing survivors better access to relief programs like D-SNAP will mean more people will be able to sign up, which will also translate into more profits for local small businesses such as grocery stores. We must work together to ensure that this important program is fully utilized by those who need it.

Sincerely,

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Nydia Velazquez

Rep. Carolyn Maloney

Rep. Gregory Meeks

Rep. Joseph Crowley

Rep. Eliot Engel

Rep. Edolphus Towns

Rep. José E. Serrano


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