The Department of Human Resources will restore lost food stamp benefits to clients who were unable to buy the stamps they were entitled to in November because of an administrative foul-up in DHR, according to Malone B. Broome, acting deputy administrator of the Payments Assistance Administration.
The foul-up involved 845 November food stamp authorization-to-purchase cards that were mailed out late because of a computer fluke and administrative error by PAA workers.
Without the cards, eligible client were unable to purchase food stamps, which are used like cash but are worth more than clients pay for tthem. Because many clients did not receive their purchase cards until late November, they had to use only cash to buy food. These clients complained that they ran out of both cash and food by the end of the of the month.
Previously, DHR had said that as long as the clients received their cards in November, no lost benefits could be restored.Only eligibile clients who notified them that they had not received a card in November would receive bonus food stamp coupons.
However, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture food stamp regulations, benefits are to be restored automatically when administrative errors occur.
Broome said he didn't know how many people would receive the onetime benefit.
Laura W.S. Macklin, an attorney with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program said legal service offices first began receiving complaints from District residents about late food stamp purchase cards in mid-November. When legal service employes called PAA workers and officials to discuss the problem, she said PAA workers informed them a computer breakdown had resulted in 600 to 1,200 cards being mailed out late. Officials later verified the figure to be 845.
Macklin said her office later called USDA official Peter Santos about the problem. Letters were then sent to Snatos, various officials with DHR, the Dity Council and Del. Walter Fauntroy, discussing the problem. The letter also included copies of the food stamp regulations that provided for restored benefits.
In the letter, Macklin asked that eligible clients who had lost all or part of their November benefits because of the late mailing be allowed free bonus coupon cards restoring the benefits they were entitled to, or the office would consider taking DHR to court.
Broome said the bonus coupon cards will be mailed to eligible clients before Jan. 15. A letter will accompany the bonus food stamp card explaining that this is a one-time benefit and why clients are receiving it.