Local/State

Area residents angry over food stamp confusion

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, set up disaster recovery centers in the area for those in need after recent storms.

Those centers were overwhelmed this weekend, prompting FEMA to break claims into two categories, food vouchers or property damage.

Food vouchers would be handled by District Welfare Offices and property claims by the disaster recovery centers.

It didn't seem to help, welfare offices were inundated. It was so bad in Darby Borough that police were forced to shut things down.

"Who should be blamed for this? In my mind, it's the bosses of the Department of Public Welfare in Harrisburg," said Chief Robert Smythe of the Darby Borough Police Department.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the welfare offices, believing they would get disaster food stamps on the spot, but instead they left empty handed and were told to fill out an application.

"I just feel that they're not coming out here and addressing everybody properly. Everybody's confused. I've been standing out at the front of the line for a while," said Jennifer Sherwood.

Many, like Laketa Wannamaker were turned away.

She already gets state welfare benefits so today she received a form stating FEMA cut off benefits to people like her yesterday.

"I was here yesterday but they closed the office. So if you knew this was the last day, how could you close the offices," said Wannamaker.

Others felts similar sentiments.

"They told me I'm out of luck, that I should call my caseworker but I can never get in touch with my caseworker. I call and call and call," said Dawn Thomas.

Neither FEMA nor the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare had an answer for the problems.

In fact, a FEMA spokesperson had no idea the deadline for some benefits ended yesterday.

"To my chagrin, I have not been able to get that word straightened out," said Michael Wade of FEMA.

Disaster relief centers in the area are open until 7:00 p.m.

For those in need of food stamps, the full list of requirements and the locations of district offices in the state are available through the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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