The deadline to file Hurricane Irene assistance applications has been extended
It was a confusing day for residents like Antoinette Mackie, who braved long lines at her local county assistance office seeking emergency government assistance to counter losses incurred during lengthy power outages and flood damage caused by Hurricane Irene.
"I was watching the news ... and they said everybody can apply for it. Then when you come down here... they say you're not eligible, so what's going on?" the Logan resident asked. "They said today was the last day."
Mackie, 47, was one of hundreds of residents that flooded the Glendale District County Assistance office in Logan with the understanding that Tuesday would be the last day to apply for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, also known as D-SNAP.
However, the Department of Public Welfare confirmed that deadline has been extended until Tuesday for the following counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia.
D-SNAP is a short-term, federal program offered to people who live in areas declared a disaster by the president after Hurricane Irene. In order to be eligible for D-SNAP benefits individuals must be residents of Pennsylvania with photo identification and proof of residence. In addition, individuals must provide proof of losses caused by Hurricane Irene, which occurred on August 27.
A representative for the Department of Public Welfare, Anne Hale, said the department's offices have been inundated with more applicants than expected.
"Many people are showing up because they think this is just some new program. I can't emphasize it enough, this program is for victims of Hurricane Irene only," Hale said.
A number of factors may have contributed to the confusion. DPW issued two press releases regarding D-SNAP although many residents, particularly in Philadelphia County, may not have access to computers or the internet. Both releases were published less than seven days before the original deadline.
In addition, Disaster Recovery Centers set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 12 counties were closed early due to an overwhelming number of applicants, sending residents back to their local county assistance offices.
"This is a new situation for the Department and when there's something new there will certainly be some bumps along the way," Hale said.
Several local news networks aired "last day" segments urging residents to go to their local county assistance office to apply for D-SNAP benefits before the deadline passed. Many residents standing in line at the Glendale District weren't even sure which benefits they qualified for, if any, but said that they'd heard on the news that it was the last day to apply and rushed to the district office.
"I did not see any of the news broadcasts so I don't know specifically what some of the news organizations have been saying but I think there's any number of things going on that have contributed to the chaos," Hale said. "We did not expect as many people to show up that have; that certainly is the bottom line."
If you're seeking government assistance after sustaining losses due to flood damage or power outages caused by Hurricane Irene, here's what you need to know and where you need to go:
• The deadline to apply for D-SNAP benefits has been extended until Oct. 4 for the following counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia. Mailed applications, with required proof, must be postmarked no later than Oct. 7.
• The temporary FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties will no longer be accepting applications; the nearest county assistance office will.
• In order to be eligible for D-SNAP benefits individuals must be residents of Pennsylvania with photo identification and proof of residence. In addition, individuals must demonstrate and provide proof of losses (property, income or food due to flood or power outage) caused by Hurricane Irene, which occurred on Aug. 27.
• Individuals who currently receive SNAP benefits or food stamps cannot apply for D-SNAP benefits. However, these individuals can receive replacement benefits for any food that was lost during the flood. If approved, the benefits will be transferred to their EBT card within 24 to 48 hours.
• Individuals who are not currently receiving SNAP benefits must complete the Food and Nutrition Service application to receive emergency D-SNAP benefits for up to 90 days.
Additional information and updates can be found on the Department of Public Welfare's website at dpw.state.pa.us.