‘Everyone just needs a second chance’: The benefits of COVID-19 food stamps extend to February
‘Everyone just needs a second chance’: The benefits of COVID-19 food stamps extend to February

‘Everyone just needs a second chance’: The benefits of COVID-19 food stamps extend to February

North Carolinians receiving food stamps will continue to receive the maximum amount allocated to their household through the month of February, according to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Regardless of which program they qualify for, those who qualify for food stamps through Food and Nutrition Services have been awarded the maximum allotment of benefits since March 2020. The allotments are based on each FNS recipient’s household size.

The NCDHHS also announced on February 4 that the FNS program has expanded its participation in its online shopping program from seven retailers to 11 in hopes of making food even more accessible to those receiving assistance.

The monetary surcharges will be automatically added to the recipients’ electronic benefit transfer card.

In addition, benefits will be awarded to recipient groups every weekday until all eligible FNS cases have been awarded their allowances. Supplements issued after February will be given weekly.

COVID-19 burdens

The benefits are part of an effort to help ease the overall burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has certainly caused massive disruptions in the workplace over the past two years and harmed people’s earnings,” Lindsey Shewmaker, head of human services at the Orange County Department of Social Services, wrote in an email.

NCDHHS Press Assistant Summer Tonizzo also noted that COVID-19-related issues had a major impact on families.

“By providing families with the maximum allocation of FNS benefits during the pandemic, households are able to purchase food to support their families despite pandemic-related difficulties they may face,” Tonizzo wrote in an e-mail. mail.

According to the NC Justice Center, the number of North Carolingians dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federal food coupon program, increased by 29 percent during the July 2021 pandemic.

Sarah Viñas, director of affordable housing and community relations with the Town of Chapel Hill, said good things have emerged from the pandemic to help supplement the financial supply of the FNS with food distribution.

“One of the great things that has happened through the pandemic is that many of the local food access organizations have really teamed up and made their services even more robust than they were pre-pandemic,” she said.

Viñas also said food distribution is made possible through local food banks and pantries.

“The city, which previously had regular food distribution in our public housing estates, has expanded it and created a larger distribution that takes place on a weekly basis Wednesday morning in Eubank’s car park,” she said. “And we are generally serving about 300 households a week.”

Food insecurity

Viñas said low-income people face difficult decisions on a daily basis.

She added that low-income people often have to choose between important things like buying food, getting school supplies, buying medicine or paying rent.

“For people working in the service sector or other low-wage jobs, or people who have a steady income due to disability, their options are really limited for how they can meet their needs,” Viñas said.

Laura Malinchock, vice president of the board of PORCH, a grassroots volunteer-led hunger organization, said low-income families deserve to have all their basic needs met.

“Food is just one of the elements,” Malinchock said. “It’s a kind of indicator of a need, but it’s not the only need our families and communities have.”

PORCH offers programs that provide food for families, schools, and pantries. It also has a Food for Thought program, which works to advocate for legislation that provides opportunities to overcome poverty such as fair living wages, affordable housing and social security.

Rousbeh Zibaie, a Chapel Hill resident who enjoys food stamps, said the help has helped him cope with the pressure, anxiety and adversity that COVID-19 exacerbated for people with mental illness and immune-compromising diseases like himself.

“Some people think that people with mental illness are lazy or slow or can do nothing,” Zibaie said. “But in reality, it’s just different. People can not all work the same way. Everyone just needs a second chance to be a part of something, and then they can do it.”

Zibaie is a member of Club Nova, a Chapel Hill nonprofit organization that serves neurodivergent individuals with financial, social, and psychiatric assistance.

Club Nova CEO Karen Dunn said that poverty and mental illness are things that add stress to people’s lives, deserving of grace and help.

“The extra food stamps are a good first step,” Dunn said. “But addressing food insecurity requires a marked shift in our culture and society and politics. It’s about how we work with people who are financially disadvantaged or have mental disabilities.”

Residents can visit this website to find more information on receiving FNS grants.

@grantalxandr

@DTHCityState | [email protected]

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