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Letter: Emergency food program ineffective

A social worker displays a Federal food stamps

A social worker displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food. Photo Credit: Getty, 2011

The letter "Food stamps as stimulus" [Jan. 6] omits some very serious considerations that have led Nassau and several other disaster-designated counties to decide against implementing D-SNAP, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for food stamps.

Immediately following superstorm Sandy, more than 20 Federal Emergency Management Agency food centers were promptly opened and remained for several weeks throughout Nassau County. The towns also set up several food distribution centers. FEMA application centers were all adequately stocked with food; all the American Red Cross shelters fully stocked their emergency shelters throughout the county, and strategically placed food vans in the hardest-hit communities.

Food banks were also available at each of the county's Disaster Recovery Centers, and New York State added automatic replacement benefits, plus a 50 percent increase, to all of Nassau County's 40,000 regular food stamp beneficiaries.

The New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, which oversees publicly funded social services programs, advised counties against implementing D-SNAP if there were any likelihood of current social services programs being interrupted or delayed. My department acted on this advice.

D-SNAP's minimum staffing requirements are impossible to meet, given the needs and volume of the Department of Social Services caseload. However well-intentioned, the D-SNAP program was announced without any provision for staffing or guaranteed funding for administrative expenses from the state or federal government -- in essence, the same as an unfunded mandate. Local governments can no longer simply enact programs for which reimbursement to the taxpayer is not guaranteed.

Several upstate social services commissioners who implemented the D-SNAP after Tropical Storm Irene last year came to a consensus that it is an unhelpful, unworkable and expensive program that ultimately does not fulfill the goals for which it is intended.

Based on all the information at hand, in our judgment, Nassau County made a thoughtful, correct and prudent decision on behalf of all of its citizens and taxpayers.

John E. Imhof, Mineola

Editor's note: The writer is the commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Social Services.