Posted on: April 5, 2020

Last updated May 19, 2020. This is a quickly changing situation. Please check back for details.

Can I apply for Disaster Food Stamps (DSNAP)?

No. While DSNAP was provided after previous federal disaster declarations, it has not been provided for this one. Instead changes have been made to regular SNAP.

I already receive SNAP benefits. What do I need to know about changes DCFS made in response to COVID-19?

  • Households receiving SNAP in March, April, and May 2020 will receive the maximum amount they can receive, based on their household size, without any reduction based on their income. For more information, visit https://slls.org/march-and-april-food-stamps-snap-benefit-increase/.
  • If you normally would have to do a simplified report now, the deadline for those reports has been suspended.
  • If your recertification for SNAP was supposed to be due in April 2020 or May 2020, those deadlines have been extended. DCFS has not finalized the new deadline yet. You should receive a notice about the new deadline from DCFS.
  • All work reporting requirements have been suspended.

I don’t have SNAP (food stamps) benefits yet. How do I apply?

The Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) offices are closed to the public but workers are still working and processing applications. You cannot apply in person.

There are still two ways you can apply:

Submit any proof that you have on hand with your application. If you do not have a copier, you can take pictures of your documents on your phone and upload the pictures to your application. (more information on this below)

But if you do not have some, or even all, of the proof, file your application without it. The amount of money you get is based on your application date. So do not wait to file.

  • Mail or fax a paper application to DCFS. We do not recommend this method because it might take longer to get your benefits than it would if you apply other ways. If you use a paper application, here are the steps:

DCFS Economic Stability
P.O. Box 260031
Baton Rouge, LA 70826

Or, fax it to (225) 663-3164.

I can’t apply online and I can’t get through the phone lines to give them my application.

If you cannot submit your application online for some reason and cannot download a paper application, contact DCFS at 1-888-524-3578 or email them at LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov. If you still cannot submit your application, you can call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 to apply for free legal help.

What proof do I need to submit? And when do I need to submit it?

You need to give DCFS proof that you qualify for SNAP benefits. You can get your SNAP benefits faster if you turn the proof in at the same time you turn in your application.

But, if you don’t have the proof they need or don’t have a way to send the proof with your application, you can turn in your application first and then turn in the proof later. DCFS will contact you to let you know what proof you still need and will help you figure out a way to submit it. If you cannot get the proof, ask your DCFS worker for help. By law, the worker must try to help you if you ask. Make sure you keep copies of anything that you turn in. If you cannot get to a copy machine, you can also take pictures of proof on your phone.

Identity

You must prove the identity of the person who is turning in the application. This is the most important proof for you to give DCFS. You should turn it in with your application if you can. You cannot get benefits before you prove your identity.

Here are some things you can turn in to prove your identity. You only need one:

  • Driver’s License
  • State ID
  • Medical card (Medicaid, Medicare, Health Insurance, VA Card)
  • ID card for some other social service program
  • Work ID
  • School ID
  • Voter’s Registration Card
  • Check Stub
  • Birth Certificate
  • If none of these are available, you can confirm your identity through a “collateral contact.” A collateral contact is someone outside of your household who can confirm your situation. This can include employers, landlords, social services agencies, or neighbors who can be expected to provide accurate information. DCFS will call the collateral contact to prove your identity.

Other Proof

Here is a list of the other things you need to prove and what things you can use to prove them.

Note that some people can start getting their benefits before they turn in all of this proof. But you will need to turn them in later to keep getting benefits.

 

Social Security Number for all who will be receiving SNAP Copy of Social Security card or

Papers received at the hospital for a newborn

Alien status If not a US citizen, forms or cards from USCIS.

If someone who lives with you does not have legal residency in the US, you can choose not to include them in your SNAP application. Then you will not need to provide this information.

If someone has a green card, applying for SNAP benefits is NOT a factor the government will use for deciding whether to approve a citizenship application.

Earned income, if you have any Last four pay check stubs or employer statements for each person who works
Self-Employment, if you have any Income tax returns, sales records, quarterly tax records, personal wage record
Other income, if you have any: This could include child support, alimony, Social Security, SSI, VA, retirement checks, Unemployment Compensation Award letters

Court orders

Statements from contributors

Proof income stopped within the last 3 months Pink slip

Termination notice

Statement from former employer

Statement from any source of income saying that the income has ended

Medical expenses Receipts

Pharmacy printouts from the last 3 months

Doctor bills

Child support payments to someone outside your home Court order or other legal papers and proof that you are making payments – like cancelled checks or wage withholding statements

What happens next?

  • If your application needs more information, DCFS will try to call you at the number you listed in your application. Keep the phone charged and close by. Make sure to answer the calls in case they call you. Submit any additional proof DCFS tells you to turn in.
  • Make sure you check your mail in case DCFS sends you a letter. If you applied online and created an account, you can also check your account to see if DCFS sent you a notice there.
  • EBT Card. DCFS will mail the EBT card (like a debit card just for eligible food) to the address you give them in your application. When you get the EBT card, it may or may not have benefits loaded on it. DCFS will load the benefits onto the card after it approved your application. Visit http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/electronic-benefits-transfer-ebt for more information about EBT cards.

 

You can also find information about EBT cards at https://louisianalawhelp.org/resource/food-stamps-the-electronic-benefits-card?ref=9dubk

 

Tips for getting SNAP benefits quickly

  • Submit as much proof as you can with your application.
  • Apply online and set up an account for your online application if you can. To set up an account, you need to have an email address. However, we recommend that you only set up an online account if you check your email account regularly.
  • If you have a phone that gets text messages, sign up for text alerts when you apply. You will get a text message when there is a new notice in your account.
  • If you set up an on-line account, check your account at least once a day to see if there are notices in it.
  • Make sure to check your mail every day.
  • Make sure to keep your phone charged and near you. Answer calls you receive in case a DCFS worker calls you to get more information.
  • If you have questions about your application, contact your DCFS worker by
    • Messaging your working through your online account
    • Emailing LaHelpU.DCFS@la.gov. But note that you might need to wait a long time for a response.
    • Calling 1-888-524-3578. But phone lines are busy so expect to wait on hold for a long time before you can talk to someone.
  • If you need help getting proof, write a note on your application and tell your DCFS worker during when they call.

How quickly can I get SNAP benefits?

Because of COVID-19, DCFS has received a large number of applications for benefits recently. So, there are delays for getting applications approved. However, by law, your food stamp application by law must be decided in 30 days, unless you have not turned in the needed proof.

Do I have to register for work to get SNAP benefits right now?

Most likely. Many of the people in Louisiana who receive SNAP benefits have to register for work. If you cannot work because you have physical or mental conditions that make you unfit for work, you should let your DCFS caseworker know.

Where can I get food while I’m waiting for DCFS to make its decision?

While you are waiting for DCFS to approve your SNAP application, you might be able to get food from a food pantry and other programs in our community. Read https://slls.org/food/ for more information.

How much will I get in SNAP benefits?

It depends. The amount you get is usually based on your household size, your income, and expenses. If you receive benefits for the month of April or May, you will get the full amount for your household size without any deductions. See https://slls.org/march-and-april-food-stamps-snap-benefit-increase/ for more information.

What if DCFS denies my application or cuts off my benefits?

You have a right to appeal DCFS’s decision. You can request a SNAP fair hearing by phone or in writing to your caseworker. Include your Name and Case/CAFÉ number (or SSN if case number is unknown) on your document.

  • Call 1-888-524-3578, then select 1-3-1-5-1; or
  • Send your request in writing to:

DCFS Economic Stability

P.O. Box 260031

Baton Rouge, LA 70826

By Fax:  225-663-3164

If DCFS denies your application, reduces, or cuts off your benefits and you disagree with DCFS’s decision, you can call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 to apply for free legal help.

For more information:

You can find more information about Louisiana SNAP at http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/snap#rights

For more information about DCFS’s response to COVID-19, visit http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/snap-covid19-response-faqs.

 

Read Full Article