ANNAPOLIS - Nearly a month after Hurricane Isabel buffeted Maryland,
thousands of affected residents are still waiting to find out if they are
eligible for special food stamp benefits.
As of Friday, 500 to 600 applications had been processed for the modified
disaster food stamp program, but "several thousand" applications were still
being processed, said Kevin McGuire, executive director of the Family
Investment Administration. The program provides one month of benefits for
lower-income families affected by the storm.
"This process is going to take a lot of time," Christopher McCabe,
secretary of the Department of Human Resources, told the Joint Committee on
Welfare Reform at a meeting Tuesday.
Delegate Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore, questioned the large number of
unprocessed applications almost a full month after the Sept. 18 storm.
"I had a problem with that," Branch said. "Most of these people are in
"Our biggest push was to take applications and now to process them as
expeditiously as possible," McGuire said later. Some workers from his
department, he said, have been assigned to help counties with the
Friday's estimates don't include applications processed throughout the
weekend, he said.
Branch also questioned why Maryland residents were still waiting when
most Virginia residents have already been helped.
Virginia operates under different rules, McGuire said.
Because Maryland was not hit by Isabel as hard as Virginia and North
Carolina, the amount of food stamp relief it can provide is limited, DHR
representatives explained. The hardest-hit states were approved for the most
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service
authorized Maryland to take applications Oct. 1-9 for a modified disaster
food stamp program. The deadline was extended in some harder-hit areas.
The program allows families with higher-than-usual incomes to qualify for
food stamps because it counts some non-reimbursable disaster-related
expenses - costs of food destroyed, cleanup, and repairing or replacing
damaged items, for example - as deductions from income. And the process is
shortened because some verification requirements are waived.
When people apply for the modified program, they are also screened for
regular food stamp eligibility.
Replacement food stamps were issued in one Baltimore Zip code and the 14
hardest hit counties - where 60 percent of the population was without power
for about a day. Food stamp clients were credited with half of their
September allocation within a week of the storm.
DHR distributed almost $5.1 million in replacement food stamps, MaGuire
said, aiding people "faster than FEMA."