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Governor requests changes to food assistance program

Gov. Doug Ducey, right, and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ exit a news conference after providing an update on the coronavirus at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory Monday, March 23, 2020, in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Gov. Doug Ducey, right, and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ exit a news conference after providing an update on the coronavirus at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory Monday, March 23, 2020, in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

To confront the economic challenges Arizonans are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey wants changes to federal food-assistance programs in Arizona that would allow the purchase of hot meals and result in timelier approval of eligibility.

The Governor announced today that the state of Arizona has requested permission from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services to implement program changes to expand access to nutritious foods through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Arizona is focused on making sure families impacted by COVID-19 have the assistance and resources they need,” Ducey stated in a news release. “We want these resources to be easy to access and available for all who need them. We’ll continue working with our partners in the government, non-profit and private sectors to come together and support Arizonans in need.”

Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Interim Director Tom Betlach said the governor’s changes will help Arizonans get “the benefits they need as quickly as possible.”

“At the same time, we are protecting SNAP applicants, eligible families and staff by easing administrative burdens and minimizing face-to-face contact to the greatest extent possible,” Betlach added.

Under the waiver, DES will expand Nutrition Assistance benefits and increase access to households. The waiver requests the following:

• Allowing DES to approve applications without eligibility interviews, resulting in quicker and more efficient services;

• Allowing all eligible families to buy prepared and hot meals from grocery stores;

• Waiving the work requirements for eligible students while employment opportunities are scarcer;

• Providing eligible families the maximum allotment allowed for up to two months; and

• Extending certification periods by 90 days, saving clients’ time and ensuring benefits are provided to clients during the pandemic.

In addition to these requests, DES will be pursuing additional waivers for SNAP as well as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to expand opportunities for families to access benefits and streamline administrative requirements.

More information will be provided once those waiver requests are finalized.

To apply for Nutrition Assistance, Arizonans can visit healthearizonaplus.gov/ or call 855-432-7587 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about DES services during the pandemic, visit https://des.az.gov/services/coronavirus.

The Governor’s Office contributed the information for this story.

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