The number of Marin residents approved for government food aid increased 343% in April compared to last year, local health officials said.
The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services granted 1,187 CalFresh applications last month compared to 268 in April 2019. There are 7,957 Marin households registered in the program.
Marin County received 532 other applications for CalFresh in April that are still being evaluated. It can take up to 30 days to process an application.
Food stamps provided through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are known as CalFresh in California.
“While we are worried about the number of people who really need it, we are heartened by the fact that so many seem to be aware of this program and utilize this important resource,” said Kari Beuerman, assistant director of Marin Health and Human Services.
The increasing demand for food stamps is just one indication of the increasing number of Marin residents who lack the financial resources needed to feed their families since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of the modest amount provided through CalFresh, hungry Mariners must look to a food pantry managed by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and an emergency government program to fill their plates.
“People have taken out carpets from under them,” said Meg Davidson, policy director at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. “Many people come to our food pantry and apply for CalFresh for the first time.”
Davidson said the food bank serves 30,000 more households per week now before the pandemic struck the Bay Area in mid-March.
“We certainly anticipate the need to grow because unemployment continues to rise,” Davidson said. “We open a new pop-up kitchen every week, and they immediately fill up. Our line is quite long. “
Maria Jose Ruiz, a Marin County eligibility worker who signed up for CalFresh, said that before the pandemic many people were hesitant to propose CalFresh because of the stigma associated with government assistance.
“Since the virus attacked,” he said, “people are definitely more open to registering because they need it.”
Ruiz recalled the call he had received at the beginning of the district’s “shelter” order from the wife of a construction worker who did not have documents with six children. Her husband just lost his job.
“He was scared,” Ruiz said. “He doesn’t know how they will feed their children or pay their rent.”
“That’s what happens with client after client,” Ruiz said. “They lost all their sources of income. This is a family without savings, who works as a day laborer and really struggles to meet their needs. “
Ruiz said it is likely the county would accept more CalFresh applications if it were not for new rules imposed by the Trump administration which took effect in February. This rule denies a green card, permanent legal status, for immigrants who are judged to be likely to need public benefits such as Medicaid, housing vouchers, or food stamps.
“When public costs come into force, we have many clients who call to stop their benefits because they are afraid,” Ruiz said.
He said public cost rules had also made many families afraid of using California’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, which provides additional support for buying groceries for families with children who are eligible for free or cheap school meals.
The maximum benefit size available through simple CalFresh. Monthly allotment for one-person households is $ 194, a little more than $ 6 per day; Two-person households qualify for a maximum of $ 355, or less than $ 12 per day.
According to the Insight Center for Economic Development, a non-profit organization based in Oakland, single adults in Marin need to spend $ 339 a month to feed themselves while two adults need $ 645. This estimate assumes that food is prepared at home using a food plan and the US Department of Agriculture allows not to take home, fast food or restaurant food.
“The benefits of CalFresh are not enough,” said Jacob Denney, director of the policy and research center. “Unique Bay Area expensive. The benefits of CalFresh across states do not take into account regional differences in costs. “
Other regional programs are also being boosted to help meet growing needs. Since the protection order in place, San Rafael nonprofit Whistlestop has increased the amount of food sent to Marin residents with chronic or life-threatening illness through the Nourish program by 28% and the amount of food is bringing older adults home by 40%, said Nancy Geisse, chief of operations
“Since the second week of March, we have sent 22,000 meals on Roda and more than 7,000 meals on food,” Geisse said.
Over the past two months, he said, Whistlestop has also sent 5,400 meals donated by Insalata’s Restaurant through the non-profit San Rafael ExtraFood.org. And that has helped enroll low-income Marin dwellers 65 years or older in a state-funded program that pays Marin restaurants to provide food for seniors who are protected from coronavirus.
The program, which began May 18 and is scheduled to end on May 29, has been extended to June 10, Beuerman said.
He said 25 restaurants participated in the program and 721 Marin residents received food.
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