By DJ Simmons
Most Mecklenburg County households receiving food stamp benefits can expect an increase this month, but an ongoing delay with applications has spread to Charlotte’s immigrant community — and catching the attention of legal advocates.
Charlotte Center of Legal Advocacy generally fields a few calls daily from clients seeking help with food stamp applications or recertifications. But after public records revealed Mecklenburg County had continued delays, the advocacy center in August sent out a tweet asking anyone facing problems with their applications to contact them, Dee Grano, a spokeswoman with the center said.
“We’re paying very close attention to the situation and are always looking for ways to effectively advocate for our clients, but larger legal action remains to be seen at this point,” Grano said in an email.
In the past few months, the center has seen the number of requests for help spike. “Where I used to get maybe two or three calls a day, we’re now getting three times that — if not more,” says Elizabeth Setaro, a paralegal advocate who works with the immigrant community. Her client, Elida Valdez as of Friday is still waiting for benefits she applied for early in July.
She decided to apply for medicaid and food stamps after giving birth to her third child in May. Valdez, who is from Guatemala, was leery of applying for food stamps and concerned it may affect her immigration status, including her reapplication for her U Visa. The documentation is granted to victims of certain crimes. But since her children are U.S. citizens, they could receive the benefit, her attorney told her. Valdez told the Charlotte Observer she received a letter from Mecklenburg County’s Department of Social Services asking for additional documents in August, roughly a month after she applied. After turning those in, a week later Valdez received a call stating the documents were never received.
After several more calls, social services said it did have all of her documents, but by then it was too late, she said. “At that point, they had already terminated the case,” Valdez, 25, said.Legal advocates home in on Mecklenburg’s food stamp delay | Charlotte Observer