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Food stamps to help residents restock after storm

Some Citrus County residents facing hardships because of Frances now can apply to receive food stamps.

Under a federal program called Disaster Food Stamp Assistance, the state Department of Children and Families will process the food stamp applications for residents of 15 counties, including Citrus, that were most severely hit by recent storms.

The stamps would come as debit cards and would range from $141 to $471, depending on an individual's or a family's income level and need.

The program is designed to help people who are normally not on the food stamp program.

In Citrus, the DCF District 13 office in Inverness will collect the applications between Tuesday and Oct. 2, said Ruth Gleason, district manager for support services for the DCF district, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake and Sumter counties.

To qualify for disaster food stamps, applicants must meet specific requirements:

+ They were Citrus residents Sept. 3.

+ They experienced at least one of the following: damaged or destroyed home or business, have nonreimbursable hurricane-related expenses such as evacuation costs, or lost income as a result of the storm.

+ Their net monthly income does not exceed $1,261 for a single person and $1,522 for a two-person household. That income cap increases with the size of the household.

Gleason said the net monthly household income is based on the applicant's income minus any nonreimbursable hurricane-related expenses.

"We are going to try to make as many people eligible as possible," she said.

If an applicant qualifies for the disaster food stamps, he would immediately get a debit card with $141 on it, Gleason said.

If a family of four qualifies, DCF workers would first give them a $141 card. Then they would add additional money to the card for a total of $471, she said.

DCF also is providing extra help to residents enrolled in the regular food stamp program, Gleason said.

In Citrus, DCF has provided 3,797 families _ or 8,593 people _ with 60 percent of their monthly food stamp allotment so they could restock after the storms.

If they need more help, they can receive 100 percent of their monthly allotment, Gleason said. An example of this would be if a family used its monthly food stamp funds to buy groceries the day before the storm and then lost it all in the storm, she said.

Those families or individuals would have to sign an affidavit at the Inverness office explaining their circumstances, she said.

Applications for the disaster food stamp program will be available at the Inverness Service Center, 2315 U.S. 41 N. Anyone with questions can call 860-5000.

Raghuram Vadarevu can be reached at (352) 564-3627 or rvadarevusptimes.com.

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