The Department of Human Resources has temporarily changed its new food stamp distribution system after complaints that the plan would leave some people without food stamps for too long. DHR now intends to phase in the system gradually, instead of initiating it over a two-week period this month.
Under the new system worked out las month by DHR officials, April food stamp authorization cards would have been mailed to about 33,000 families during the first two weeks of the month. Instead, officials said, the cards will be mailed by the end of this week. DHR is undecided whether it will try in May to implement the original plan.
Under the original plan, the cards, which are to be mailed alphabetically, would have kept families with last names begining X, Y, or Z from receiving food stamps until April 14 or Later.
Laura Macklin, an attorney with the Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS), said several families whose last names are near the end of the alphabet have called NLS offices complaining they would have to wait too long to receive the stamps.
City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8) has received similar complaints, said Orlark's aide, Sterlin Johnson.
Lee Partridge, aide to council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) added, "Both Mrs. Shackleton and Mrs. Rolark were concerned about the potential hardship the department was unwittingly committing."
The decision to change the April distribution program was made after a recent meeting with DHR officials, council members Rolark and Shackleyon and social service workers who provide help to the city's poor. All involved in the meeting consented to the change.
DHR director Albert P. Susso said radio announcements will be made to inform citizens of the changes.
Under the new system, Russo said, families with last names beginning with letters A through S should have been mailed April food stamp cards by today.
Tomorrow, cards are to be mailed to families with last names beginning with letters T through Z.
Although DHR officials have not determined when they will begin the original mailing system, it will be implemented as followd:
During the first week of the month, cards are to be mailed to families whose last names begin with letters A through K. The following week cards will be mailed to families with last names beginning with letters L. through Z.
Previously, the food stamp cards were mailed to all recipients at the beginning of each month. The cards were then exchanged at local banks and credit unions that distributed the food stamps, which are used like cash to buy food. Those facilities receive $1 to pay administrative costs forevery food stamp card that is exchanged.
The new, staffered mailing system was planned to address complaints from several banks and credit unions that food stamp recipients jammed their facilites at the beginning of each month. Several facilities threatened to rpull out of the program unless these and other problems were resolved.
Russo said the change in the system was made to help both the clients and the financial facilities.