CalFresh Enrollments Almost Triple in LA County – NBC Los Angeles
Almost three times the number of Los Angeles County’s residents who applied for CalFresh grocery services in April versus last year, and the county is launching a digital campaign to encourage even more residents to enroll, officials said Tuesday.
“There are thousands of residents in the county who have never before relied on public services to put food on the table. They face food insecurity and need the CalFresh program as well as other DPSS services,” said Antonia Jimenez, director of the Ministry of Public Social Services.
In April, the DPSS received 126,875 applications for CalFresh, commonly known as grocery stamps, compared to 43,747 enrollments in April 2019, according to state data.
April is CalFresh Awareness Month, a designation that was introduced 10 years ago to remove stigma from food brands by renaming the benefits. The program is known nationwide as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The DPSS will also use the campaign to highlight other assistance available to individuals and households who have lost jobs, businesses, homes and other financial resources as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“During tough times like these, we’re the safety net for millions in LA County,” said Jimenez.
Separately, the county board of supervisors on Tuesday approved a motion to send a letter to members of Congress asking them to waive strict student admission requirements if many have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Benefits are limited for students unless they are entitled to exceptions, such as working at least 20 hours per week or participating in a government-funded work study program.
Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote the application, citing a 2018 California State University study that found that 41.6% of CSU students reported food insecurity, even though less than half would qualify for CalFresh.
“In normal times, these limitations already create unnecessary barriers for students faced with food insecurity,” said Hahn. “During a global pandemic, they are simply unjustifiable. When sites are closed and record-breaking jobs are lost, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for students to meet the requirements.”
Advocates of the nonprofit United Parents and Students and Los Angeles Food Policy Council called on the county’s board of directors Tuesday to set up a $ 5 million emergency fund to provide food vouchers for low-income families.
Veronica Toledo, assistant director at United Parents and Students, said 41% of parents in Los Angeles with young children are now skipping or cutting back on meals in order to make ends meet, citing a recent conducted by The Education Trust-West Survey.
“This is a matter of life and death for thousands and now is the time for the board to act,” said Toledo.
The DPSS’s contact with low-income families and other people in need includes working with city officials, local school boards, and immigration groups to get the message across that benefits are available.
The DPSS has closed its office to the public due to public health orders. However, residents can apply for benefits online at www.dpss.lacounty.gov or www.getcalfresh.org. The instructions are available in several languages.