Under new food stamp deductions that became effective recently, elderly and disabled persons can now deduct high medical and shelter costs to reduce their incomes to eligible food stamp levels.
This is the third time regulations in the national program have been changed in the past year.
Until last March, all applicants were able to deduct high medical and household costs to apply for the stamps. Revisions in the 1977 Food Stamp Act, however, eliminated medical deductions and limited shelter deductions to $90.
The new deductions will permit persons 60 or older, or those receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments, to deduct all nonreimbursable medical costs that exceed $35. Shelter costs -- such as rent, mortgage, utilities, home insurance, property taxes or standard monthly telephone fees -- are deductible if they exceed half of the applicant's adjusted income.
For example, if Jane Doe receives $200 a month in Social Security, she is permitted a $70 standard deduction to apply for food stamps. If her medical bills are $45 a month, she can then deduct $10 (the costs over $35) from her income for a balance of $120. Doe will then deduct all shelter costs over $60 (half her adjusted monthly income) to determine her food stamp benefits. The less money you have to live on each month, the more food stamps you receive.
Albert Russo, director of the Department of Human Resources, said the new deductions were approved to aid the elderly and disabled who were being particularly hard hit by revisions in the Food Stamp Act of 1977. But the reinstatement of these two rules in no way reflects that the federal government is taking a lenient stance on trimming middle-income food stamp users from its rolls, Russo said.
Currently being discussed is a provision that would require all food stamp applicants to supply the Social Security numbers of residents living in the household, Russo said. The provision would, supposedly, weed out applicants who reported false household incomes.
In another move, instituted a year ago, food stamps became free of charge to help guard against administrative abuse and to allow poor households, who could not afford the nominal fee to purchase the stamps, to participate in the program.
Commenting on the abuse, Russo said two men operating Metron Financial Services Inc. -- a former food stamp distribution office located at 1443 Howard Rd. SE -- were recently convicted of embezzling nearly $370,000 in food stamps and funds between August 1976 and December 1977.
The embezzlers, Norman Holmes of Landover, Md., and Glenn Cobb of Columbia, Md., were recently sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge John H. Pratt to five years' probation, ordered to complete 400 hours of community service and fined $37,500 each. Only the $75,000 in fines have been recovered.
The case is still under investigation. However, the District government is liable to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the $370,000, Russo said.
In September 1977, Bishop Lucius S. Cartwright and the Rev. Albert R. Hamrick of St. Phillip's Pentecostal Church at Wheeler Road and Barnaby Street SE were each sentenced to six months in prison and fined a total of $7,000 for stealing more than $250,000 in food stamp funds.