With Hurricane Florence leaving many victims with financial struggles, staff members at Sampson County Department of Social Services were ready to help with the recovery process.
One of the efforts was the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP). The application process began Friday, Sept. 28, for the effort implemented by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sampson County was one of 27 disaster-declared counties in the state.
“It’s worked well,” said Sarah Bradshaw, director of Sampson DSS. “Friday and Saturday were very busy here. We had a line to the road and down the road.”
Thursday marked the sixth day of taking applicants and it was less busy than others. But Bradshaw wants victims to know there’s still time to get help. Sampson DSS received a special visit from Mandy K. Cohen, secretary of NCDHHS, and Assistant Secretary Micheal Becketts. They took a tour of the facility, which includes different sections to meet the special needs of residents.
During the stop, they spent time with Bradshaw, Commissioners Sue Lee and Harry Parker, and County Manager Ed Causey.
“I think Sampson County and the team there has done a great job setting up a whole new intake operation that’s helping thousands and thousands of folks who came through already,” Cohen said.
Bradshaw said it was the first time a large-scale DSNAP operation was held at the department on County Complex Road. When Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, services were provided to 6,000 at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center. According to Sampson DSS, more than 4,490 people have received assistance, as of Wednesday night.
“But we know there’s more out there,” Cohen said.
DSNAP is a program designed to authorize food assistance for eligible households not currently receiving such benefits and who have experienced a loss as a result of Hurricane Florence. Residents may qualify for this one-time assistance if their home was damaged or destroyed, have disaster related expenses, lost income, had food loss because of a power outage, or household flooding resulting from Hurricane Florence. Eligibility is also based on available household income during the period of Sept. 7 through Oct. 6.
After the hurricane, state and local official implemented DSNAP to help families through the program. Local and state officials are encouraging anyone who need help to take advantage of the program by visiting the enrollment center. So far, the program has helped more than 200,000 people in counties affected by Hurricane Florence.
“We want to make sure folks in Sampson know that there’s help available and come in for Saturday,” Cohen said.
Eligible applicants will receive a one-time benefit EBT card which can be used to purchase food. Starting at $192 for one individual, additional amounts depend on how many people live in one home. For a family of four, the amount is $640. It’ll take several days for funds to be available on the card. Residents currently receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) are not eligible for this disaster program. Such households are being assisted via a disaster replacement and/or supplement of their benefits. Applicants will be asked to provide verification of identity. This will not have to be a picture identification. Any document that shows the applicant’s name, such as a utility or other bill, will be accepted.
Monica Price, program manager, is pleased with how the local program is going.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve suffered a great loss,” she said. “It makes all the staff feel good to assist the families with their needs right now.”
Price added that employees also encouraged families to apply for benefits if they need more assistance throughout the year.
Janet Melvin, a DSS retiree, guided families through the application process.
“It’s been a blessing to assist many people who lost so much during Hurricane Florence,” Melvin said.
Officials stressed that the deadline is 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. Applications will be taken Friday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 6, from 8 a.m. t0 6 p.m. The Sampson DSS office is located at 360 County Complex Road, Building E. Suite 100, Clinton. Additional information regarding enrollment centers is available by calling 211 and asking for the nearest location.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.