Flood-aid lines frustrate applicants

September 3, 2010 4:33:05 AM PDT
For a third day, residents stood in long lines waiting for federally funded electronic food stamps for people who live or work in areas flooded by late-July storms.

State workers told many people Wednesday that they have to come back later in the week, but at least now they're being given specific appointment times.

Meanwhile, ABC 7 has learned that, Tuesday alone, of all the people who sought food aid, the state approved 99 percent of them for extra flood-related food benefits.

Tuesday's seemingly unending lines gave way to a more orderly scene Wednesday. But those seeking food aid still need at least two visits to apply.

"I don't have income to replace it. Thank God I was able to get time off today to come in and get some services," said Tamela Milan.

"It's kind of hard, but if it's for free, you have to appreciate it," said Angela Johnson, food aid applicant.

Tuesday, state human services workers gave out more than $2.4 million worth of extra electronic food stamps. Of those who applied, 5,691 households were approved. Only 58 were denied.

Federal guidelines allow for anyone meeting income and eligibility requirements who lives anywhere in a zip code declared a disaster area to receive extra benefits. They do not have to prove they actually suffered losses.

"There were some people who were there who were confused, but they weren't there to try to defraud the government. They were there to get relief they thought they had coming," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, (D) Chicago.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn told ABC 7 the program is being managed effectively. He is defending the state's handling of the flood-related food stamp program. He said two days of long lines and short tempers were the result of overwhelming need.

"We brought in extra managers, extra workers and we're trying to keep up with demand," Quinn said.

A FEMA run disaster center, where those filing claims present proof of losses, was surprisingly quiet Wednesday afternoon, a difference not lost on Lawndale resident Tony Wilson.

"There it's just like you waiting, waiting, waiting - it's just a waiting game," said Wilson.

The federal money being handed out by the state can be worth between $200 and $950 in extra food benefits on a Link card. It all depends on the size of someone's family.

The state says, as long as you come to a human services office by Friday at 4 p.m. to get an appointment card, you can apply, even if -- because of the backlog -- you're not seen until later next week.

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