The head of the city's Department on Aging said yesterday there is little his office can do for thousands of district residents who face reduced food stamp allotments because of recent changes in federal regulations.
Department Director Dick Artis said he was only generally aware until a few days ago that many of the 15,000 persons receiving Supplemental Security Income -- assistance for the elderly and disabled -- will take a sizeable cut in their food stamp allotments this month.
"There's a certain illogic in all this," said Artis, "but the federal government doesn't necessarily need to be logical."
Artis' statements were in response to an article in Thursday's Washington Post concerning Rachel Manley, a 62-year-old-cancer victim whose food stamp allotment was cut nearly 25 percent because of a $40 cost-of-living increase in her monthly SSI check -- her sole source of income.
The District's Department of Human Services sent out notices to 44,000 food stamp recipients July 1 informing them of adjustments in their allotments because of changes in their total income.
For Manley, this meant a $13 cut in her $54-a-month food stamp allowance. Manley's adjustment was based on the cost-of-living increase making her monthly SSI check $253.
She sought the advice of the Rev. Jack Woodard, activist pastor of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church.
"I think it showed me that our office isn't doing a good enough job of letting pastors know what services are available," said Artis. "We can't help it if we don't know where the problems are."
Much of the problem stems from recent changes in the federal food stamp regulations.
"All we can do is interpret federal legislation and abide by that," said Dexter Stannard, chief of the city's food stamp branch.
The food stamp office reports numerous complaints regarding the SSI increase versus the food stamp cut.
Since Thursday's article, the office on aging has sent a representative to Manley's home to determine her eligibility for additional benefits. Artis said the office also may investigate the legality of an automatic $10-a-week deduction in Manley's SSI check caused by an overpayment while she was hospitalized for treatment of cancer earlier this year.