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Here to Help: Applying for food stamps

Posted January 13, 2009
Updated October 12, 2011

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— Times are tough and money is tight. WRAL News is here to help. The station has launched a new effort to bring you stories to help during a struggling economy, such as information on how to qualify and apply for food stamps.

The Durham County Department of Social Services has seen a jump over the last few months in the number of people who need help buying food.

"We (were) taking 80 applications, maybe 75 applications, a month. Now we're getting to 100. On Monday, we took 146, so that is the most we've ever taken since I can remember being here,” said Pinkie Davis-Boyd, program manager of Durham County’s Food and Nutrition Services.

Food stamps aren't stamps anymore, but rather a debit card.

"We went to the electronic issuance in 1996, and you get a card. It's called an EBT card," Davis-Boyd said.

Applying for food stamps Applying for food stamps

Donald Moore said he didn't know food stamps were issued on a card.  He was among those applying for assistance at the  Durham office.

Moore is a prostate cancer survivor, and his wife just had a heart attack. As a result, he is dealing with a slew of medical bills and decided to apply for food stamps.

"I feel like, if you don't ask, hey, it's your loss. You've got to ask friends and other people and don't be ashamed, you know, because you might find yourself one day in this spot,” Moore said.

Moore used to work for Bristol-Myers Squibb as an inventory manager until a gun accident left him blind in one eye. He said times have been especially tough recently.

"I'm on disability. (My) wife is a nurse and she had a triple bypass recently because of a heart attack," Moore said. "So I'm doing now what I feel like I have to do."

"There are a lot of [misunderstandings] out there, (such as) that 'I can't have a car. I can't have a nice car and apply, or I'm not going to get but $10.' Each situation is different, (and) we look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Davis-Boyd said.

To apply for food stamps, you must be a United States citizen. There are other requirements, but the main concern is income. What matters is not how much you take home, but rather how much you make before taxes.

If you are a single person, you can't make more than $1,127 a month. For a family of four, the limit is $2,297 a month. If you are under that amount, the food stamp debit card can buy anything edible and is accepted across the U.S.

For Moore, food stamps may only mean a few more dollars a month, but these days, he said, every penny counts.

"I know my friends and family, they're paychecks have only gone up 10 cents. Yet inflation of prices in this economy has gone up and up," Moore said. "I've really never experienced it like this before, so I don't know if it's a recession or just a change in times."

The slow economy has also brought changes to food stamp requirements. Last year, a single person who didn't have a job, but who was physically able to work, was only eligible for food stamps for three months in a 36-month period unless the person was working at least 20 hours each week. That requirement has since been waived. Now, if you are single and between the ages of 18 and 49, there is no work stipulation.

If you don't qualify for food stamps, there are other community-outreach programs that may be able to help.

"I admire anyone who sees a need and does something about it, and with the economy the way it is, we all have a need and that's what we look for to help someone. And if we can feed one family along the way, then our work will not be in vain," Davis-Boyd said.

Last year, a state audit showed more needed to be done to cut out food stamp fraud. Officials with the Department of Social Services say they are working to do that.

8 Comments

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  • For the U.S.A. Jan 13, 2009

    Food Stamps (EBT Cards) are full of fraud! Most of the people on them know hope to abuse the system. They will have more children, remained unmarried, and have multipul addresses for other things such as a nice new car and house. If they would really give help to people who really needed it then I would support it, but until then these people who are cheating the system are held accountable I oppose it!!

  • WooHoo2You Jan 13, 2009

    My problem with Food Stamps stems from when I was younger making close to minimum wage working at a grocery store. I lived alone (no one to share the bills), paid my car, paid my taxes, paid my phone, paid everything WITH NO HELP. And I ate; not well but I ate. People would come in driving 40,000 dollar SUVs and buy shrimp-rings, deli meat, rib-eyes, and the such with their food stamp card aka EBT Cards packed in their Gucci bags and claim they did not get enough help from the gov't. I have no issue with "tiggerjd3," It sounds like she is going through a tough time and is not getting the help she needs due to the people who know how to work the system and STILL FEEL THEY ARE THE VICTIMS!!!

  • tiggerjd3 Jan 13, 2009

    My family has never had to apply for assistant untill lately? I was injured at work, and workers comp is a joke, and my husband has had slow work. We have a family of four with one disabled child and our monthly income has dwindeled down to $1700. I have also had to keep up my family insurance with this money, so we are only actually seeing $1100. It is hard to make it since we have a mortgage and other things. I went to apply for foodstamps and we get a whooping $67.00 a month. So we have had to budget our groceries. This just makes me sick. I pay my taxes and I have not been an abuser and I just cant beleive it. But we will make it as we put our faith in the good lord and he takes care of us, not the government.

  • thewayitis Jan 13, 2009

    I guess this is why the state wants to tax internet sales, per the other WRAL article, so that they can fund more entitlement programs for people who don't work. Why in the world do they give out food stamps to people who are capable of working and don't?!! Why did they lift that requirement? I really don't understand this! If you're old or disabled, that's one thing, but if you're young and healthy, it's another thing completely. Young healthy people who don't work should not be allowed to collect food stamps without supplying some service in return -- picking up trash, cleaning public buildings, etc. Why shouldn't they return the favor?

    Sigh. I'm really questioning why we even try to work and make a living, when there are so many free loaders who benefit from our hard work. What has happened to our once great country, when people were ashamed to collect government hand-outs? We need to bring some of the shame back.

  • blondton13 Jan 13, 2009

    The work stipulation was removed? So my family could eat better if I DIDN'T work? That makes sense.

  • NCTeacher Jan 13, 2009

    I am just stunned and amazed that they took the work stipulation out of it. I understand the economy is tough right now and it is going to be hard for people to find a job- but don't make it easier for people to abuse the system.

  • common_sense_plz Jan 13, 2009

    I guess WRAL is only out to help people in Durham county. I did not see anywhere a link for Wake county nor did I see anything for helping out the elderly who are on fixed incomes, and need help paying for their heating fuel (oil/propane). WRAL is forgetting other citizens (elderly) and the citizens of wake county.

  • stevenkirkland Jan 13, 2009

    2,297 for a family of 4?

    Seems a bit low to me considering it is pre-tax wonder what the formula they used to come up with that?