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Letter: Food stamps can be stimulus

A social worker displays a Federal food stamps

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

As superstorm Sandy victims wait for Congress to provide them with much-needed recovery funds, it's important that Long Islanders have access to every resource available to rebuild their lives. That's why we thank Newsday for bringing attention to the efforts to persuade both counties to opt in to a federal program that helps eligible disaster victims purchase food ["Officials mull emergency food stamps," News, Dec. 27].

However, the Newsday article failed to note the economic boost that an influx of federal food dollars would bring to storm-battered areas, both to struggling families and hard-hit local businesses. Estimates show that more than $12 million in federal benefits could be made available to Long Island households through this program, which could then translate into nearly $22 million in local economic stimulation.

Additionally, the Newsday article inaccurately characterized who would qualify for the disaster food assistance, stating that the program "only slightly extends the eligibility pool," compared with the federal government's regular food stamp program. That is untrue. Although both programs require that applicants meet income requirements, the disaster program has a higher income threshold, in part because it takes into account a household's disaster-related expenses.

For example, a family of four could have a take-home monthly pay of more than $4,000 and still qualify for disaster food benefits under the programs already implemented by New Jersey and New York City. Estimates show that more than 12,000 new Long Island households could be eligible for the program if our county leaders choose to act.

Gwen O'Shea, Melville

Editor's note: The writer is chief executive of the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, a consortium of agencies serving poor and vulnerable residents.