December 23, 2002
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203
Working Families Get Needed Food Stamp Benefits

(New York, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, announced that the Governor has signed his bill into law (Chapter 333 of the Laws of 2002) to simplify the application process for the Food Stamp program. This proposal will help struggling working families make ends meet.

The current Food Stamp application can be as long as 14 pages and is a burden to busy parents and seniors who have difficulty with bureaucracy. Ortiz' bill would have the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) develop a brief, simplified application for those applying for the Food Stamp program. OTDA will develop the form in cooperation with Food Stamp outreach organizations, and with a goal of reaching as many potential applicants as possible.

According to Ortiz, "Food Stamp benefits are a work support helping struggling households, and seniors, succeed on the lower incomes they receive in entry-level jobs. It is crucial for their well-being and success to have proper nutrition for the working parent or senior as well as the children in school. These families are often relying on volunteer-run food pantries for food in record numbers when they could be spending federal benefits at local food stores and farmers' markets. When families, individuals and eligible seniors do apply for Food Stamps they are faced with a lengthy application that asks many unnecessary questions not required by law. This often discourages applicants who are busy trying to get ahead in the workplace and don't have time to follow through. We cannot have productive, successful citizens unless they grow up with proper nutrition and the ability to learn and develop to their full potential. Feeding families in soup kitchens is not the answer. Increasing participation in the Food Stamp program is."

Since September 11th the City and State's emergency food programs are reporting increased demand. At the same time the Mayor is proposing to eliminate the City's financial contribution to these programs.

"Now is the time to make sure our needy households get all the federal assistance possible. We wouldn't turn down other federal help at this time and Food Stamps are totally federally funded," said Ortiz. It is estimated that close to $1 billion in federal Food Stamps would flow into New York's economy if all eligible households participated.

Ortiz has led the fight for anti-hunger initiatives in the Assembly and has repeatedly visited Washington to successfully lobby to restore Food Stamps assistance to immigrants and other families. He sponsored two public hearings, in NYC and Albany, on these problems earlier this year and this law is a result of that work.

Since the bill was signed into law this summer, Onondaga County has developed a two page, two-sided application that has been piloted for several months. OTDA expects to have a final version of this pilot application form approved and available for statewide distribution sometime in the first half of next year. Assemblyman Ortiz will be working to encourage counties and NYC to adopt this form as soon as it receives final approval by the State.

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