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BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has requested Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) benefits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service for the 23 parishes covered by the federal disaster declaration.
In anticipation of approval, DCFS is preparing to issue DSNAP benefits next week to applicants from the following parishes: Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, DeSoto, Claiborne, Grant, LaSalle, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Richland, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Union, Vernon, Washington, Webster, West Carroll, and Winn.
Wednesday, Governor John Bel Edwards requested to amend the federal declaration to also include Allen, Ascension and Calcasieu parishes. When the governor's request is approved, DCFS will request DSNAP for the remaining parishes.
DSNAP, formerly called Disaster Food Stamps, provides food assistance to eligible households who do not receive regular SNAP benefits and who need help buying groceries due to lost income or damages following a disaster.
DSNAP sites will serve applicants on a staggered alphabetical schedule beginning Monday, March 21 and will run through Saturday, March 26, for all but LaSalle Parish, which has a five-day schedule. To minimize wait times, applicants and anyone who pre-registered for benefits should go to a DSNAP location only on one of the days indicated by the first letter of their last name. Applicants who are unable to visit a site on their designated day should go on one of the final two days specified:
- Monday, March 21: A-D
- Tuesday, March 22: E-K
- Wed., March 23: L-R
- Thursday, March 24: S-Z
- Friday, March 25: A-K
- Saturday, March 26: L-Z
LaSalle Parish will have the same schedule as the others on Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, the site will open to any applicant (A-Z). It will not have hours on Saturday.
DSNAP applicants MUST go to a specified DSNAP site to apply and receive benefits. Because of flood damage in many of the parishes, locations are still being finalized and will be released as soon as they are confirmed.
DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said the goal in scheduling DSNAP issuance dates so quickly is to expedite aid to the thousands of families in need.
"Next week is Holy Week and a time when many Louisianians rest and worship with families. We are reminded that so many of our neighbors are without food and shelter through no fault of their own. Many have lost everything. We hope these resources will help them replace some of what they've lost and give them some comfort so they can start to rebuild their lives," said Walters.
Applicants may name an Authorized Representative to go to a DSNAP site on their behalf. Authorized representatives must bring with them to the DSNAP site a picture ID and the picture ID of the applicant/head of household along with a signed statement from the applicant/head of household or an adult household member authorizing them as a representative.
Accommodations will be made for the elderly and those with disabilities to reduce on-site wait times.
Regular SNAP households DO NOT need to apply for DSNAP. Impacted households that receive regular SNAP benefits in the DSNAP parishes will have additional SNAP benefits added to their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards if they are not already receiving the maximum allotment for their household size.
To help expedite the application process DCFS is encouraging residents in all affected areas to pre-register for DSNAP benefits. The best way to do this is online at www.dcfs.la.gov/dsnap. However, residents can also pre-register by phone at 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Callers will select the appropriate language and then select options 3 and 3. All pre-registrants will have to provide the following information:
- Name, Social Security Number and Date of Birth for each household member
- Current address and parish of household
- Monthly income for each household member
- All liquid assets for each household member (cash on hand, checking, savings)
The information will be kept securely on file and will be confidential.
The pre-registration process does not guarantee benefits, but is designed to save time, minimize long waits and prevent applicants from coming to the site, only to find out that they do not have the right information needed to apply.
As with all programs, DCFS works to ensure this program and others are available for eligible applicants by aggressively protecting against fraud in benefits programs year round. Strong safeguards are in place to ensure that only eligible citizens receive DSNAP benefits, to identify those who are dishonest about their eligibility and to pursue recoupment and/or prosecution.