Health and Family Services Cabinet
Kentucky food stamp workers assist hurricane recovery efforts in Alabama
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services sent additional staff to assist Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Katrina with food benefits.
Ten expert food stamp eligibility workers from the cabinet’s Department for Community Based Services offices across the state departed on Wednesday, Sept. 21, for Mobile, Ala., where they were stationed until Wednesday, Sept. 28.
They were part of a multistate response through the 49-state member Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which provides interstate mutual aid. Through EMAC, a disaster-impacted state can request and receive assistance from other member states quickly and efficiently to resolve liability and reimbursement issues.
Other states sending food benefits staff to Mobile are Michigan, Maryland and Ohio. Overall, 50 workers were detailed to Alabama for this effort, 10 of whom were from Kentucky. Those 50 food stamp eligibility workers plus Federal Food and Nutrition Service and Alabama State eligibility workers made a total of 270 workers taking the applications and processing nearly 53,000 food stamp applications during the five-day period.
Travel expenses and salaries for Kentucky’s staff are initially covered by the state’s Food Stamp Program, but the state will be reimbursed through EMAC. Staff worked in the Mobile Civic Center, enrolling eligible families in the federal Food Stamp Program.
Eligibility is basically the same across the country, said Mark Cornett, a staff assistant in DCBS’ Frankfort office, so Kentucky staff is well versed in procedure. However, “States have some discretion in seeking waivers that will improve the effectiveness and service delivery,” he said.
“Federal Food Stamp Disaster Assistance is a streamlined program that relaxes the rules during a disaster,” Cornett said. “It is intended to expedite the process for victims of disasters.”
In Kentucky, DCBS’ Division of Family Support determines food stamp eligibility. Several dozen DCBS staff volunteered to help in the disaster recovery efforts, Cornett said, but only 10 were requested.
“I am so proud of these staff for their selflessness in traveling to help Gulf Coast residents register for family assistance,” DCBS Commissioner Tom Emberton Jr. said. “With food stamp benefits, many of the displaced and coping families can begin to restabilize themselves and make a new start. Basic needs like food and proper nutrition are essential to any family. The staff members we’ve deployed have excellent customer service skills to help eligible applicants get all the aid for which they qualify.”
The cabinet is already represented in recovery efforts. Earlier this month, environmental health specialists from the cabinet’s Department for Public Health and local health departments traveled to Gulfport, Miss., to assist.
DCBS staff detailed to Mobile and their work counties are as follows: Campbell County, Cindy Mickelson; Daviess County, Debbie Fitzgerrel and Lori Huff; Grant County, Sandy Heck; Hart County, Betty Nunn; Hopkins County, Dana Dacy and Lana Qualls; Jefferson County, Joyce Pumphrey; Montgomery County, Denise Amburgey and Jane Hammack.
This experience left a lasting impression on the detailed Kentucky food stamp eligibility workers, who were particularly struck by the friendliness and gratitude of the people they served. “I never heard so many ‘thank yous’ in my life. Each and every person that I served was so grateful for the help and so happy with the way things were running. They commented that they were just so impressed with the flow of things, as was I,” said Jane Hammack, a food stamp eligibility worker in Montgomery County. “I was proud to go and do this for those affected by this huge disaster. I will never forget this experience and am so glad I had the opportunity to go.”
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