Coronavirus NC: Need help? Food stamps, other state benefits have never been higher

Many people are in a place they've never been -- especially financially.

But while we wait for those checks from the federal government and apply for unemployment, the state is trying to make people aware there is more assistance available.

And those benefits are at the highest levels ever thanks to COVID-19 relief.

Family and child advocates say this isn't the time to let pride get in the way of accepting the help your tax dollars have been supporting for years.

"Families are being forced to stay home, they're not able to work so their income has been reduced, children not being in school that are normally receiving free and reduced lunch. So, the needs for families, food needs for families are increased," said David Locklear the Deputy Director of Economic and Family Services at the Division of Social Services within the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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And right now, the food stamp program is offering additional benefits for March and April.

Those already enrolled will now get the maximum for their size family regardless of other qualifications.

As an example, a single person whose income barely qualifies them for assistance currently gets $16 a month.

But now they can receive the maximum benefit of $194 for March and again in April.
And an added benefit, according to Locklear, is social distancing.

"With families having additional benefits it allows them to buy more food one time versus going to the store multiple times," said Locklear whose career of helping the needy spans 29 years.

He says those who applied for food stamps in March will get their benefit retroactively if they qualify.

And if you apply now and qualify, you'll get the maximum benefits for April even if you aren't approved until May.

"I'm really excited about the flexibilities that our federal partners have been able to leverage all across the country to help families in need," he said.

Locklear said that at the website http://epass.nc.gov you can not only apply for food benefits but medical benefits as well.
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