Coronavirus News: 7 On Your Side Investigates helps family left without food stamps amid COVID-19 pandemic

BROOKLYN (WABC) -- When coronavirus left one family in Brooklyn unemployed and unable to access their SNAP benefits, they called 7 On Your Side Investigates for help.

The Vazquez family had gone days without their monthly assistance just as their daughter's fifth birthday approached.

"And that's what we are on pins and needles about," Cynthia Vasquez said. "Are we going to be able to get her a cake? It's very frustrating."

Her husband Nicodemus said the city "basically left us to starve."

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Social Services confirmed there had been an unintended delay in the family's food stamps and promised it would be resolved. The spokesperson declined giving specifics citing client confidentiality.

In a statement a DSS spokesperson wrote, "Since this crisis began, we've responded with unprecedented speed and scope, and taken extraordinary steps to change how we provide benefits, making it easier for clients to access and stay connected to them, including by eliminating all adverse case actions during this period so that they need not worry in these unprecedented times. Clients receiving SNAP/food assistance do not have to go to an HRA office to apply, submit documents, or recertify for monthly benefits. We cannot discuss confidential client cases - but we remain committed to ensuring New Yorkers continue to receive the benefits for which they are eligible, especially in these unprecedented times."

The Vazquez family confirmed they did receive their monthly benefits shortly after 7 On Your Side Investigates inquired with DSS, and they were able to purchase food to provide their daughter Sarenthia a cake and birthday dinner.

You can visit www.nyc.gov/ACCESSHRA to see if you qualify for food stamps, cash assistance and rent grants.

During the pandemic, you can apply for food assistance online at nyc.gov/ACCESSHRA and an agent will call to conduct a phone interview.
Individuals in need of emergency assistance can also call 311 for help locating a nearby food pantry.

Additionally, some families already receiving food stamps may be eligible for additional assistance under the Families First Act.

FFA authorized the state to provide supplemental food stamps up to the maximum allowed based on family size for two months.

Maximums based on family size are as follow: $194 for a single individual, $355 for a family of two, $509 for a family of three, $646 for a family of four, $768 for a family of five, $921 for a family of six, $1,018 for a family of seven and $1,164 for a family of eight. For families of nine and above add $146 per individual to the maximum allowed for a family of eight.

Families already receiving the maximum allowed under SNAP are not eligible for this benefit.

Eligible families do not need to apply for this supplement, according to DSS. It will be automatically applied.

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