DSS: Qualification differences explain discrepancy of DSNAP, FEMA applicants

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Nearly twice as many South Carolinian’s got approved for flood-related food stamps than asked for federal flood aid from FEMA, and that has some lawmakers raising the possibility of fraud.

Those concerns came out of the Upstate after nearly 90% of applicants for emergency food stamp benefits were approved.

News13 reached out to State Senator Raymond Cleary who said his staff had heard of the concerns but didn’t have any first hand knowledge himself.

State Senator Luke Rankin says he hasn’t heard of any fraud or glitches in the system, but did add that a lot of folks still need help.

News13 was there as hundreds lined up for flood assistance last month. People were looking for DSNAP benefits, also known as the “disaster supplemental nutrition assistance program,” which are one time benefits available after a disaster.

It provided temporary food help in 24 flood impacted counties. The Department of Social Services says about 88 percent of applications were approved. That comes out to 184,173 people, nearly double the 96,829 households that asked for FEMA flood aid and seven times the 25,956 that have actually been approved so far.

In Georgetown County 5,648 (88%) were approved for DSNAP. That’s compared to 1,176 approved FEMA applications out of 4,204 worth about $6 million.

Florence county saw 12,906 (87%) approved for DNSAP while 1,758 out of 6,077 FEMA applications have been approved totaling $4.6 million.

16,013 (92%) were approved for DSNAP in Horry County versus only 1,324 approved FEMA applications out of 5,472 totaling about $3.6 million.

Officials at DSS say the difference is caused by different requirements for receiving aid.

To qualify for FEMA, a person has to have had some flood related damage to their property. DSNAP applicants qualified if they had flood damage, lost income from missed work, or had unreimbursed flood-related expenses.

DSS says each applicant was interviewed and cautioned that anyone who got DSNAP benefits fraudulently would be prosecuted. Agency spokesperson Karen Wingo says DSS staff has begun reviewing some applications, but was not aware of any criminal prosecutions.

DSS estimates it will give out between $75 million and $80 million dollars in DSS benefits.

FEMA’s Kurt Pickering says $77.4 million in FEMA grant money has been awarded and SBA offers $115 million in additional loans for people impacted by the floods.

The  deadline to register with FEMA and complete the SBA Disaster Loan application is January 4, 2016. Specialists from FEMA and the SBA are still present in many affected counties and available to assist those survivors at their closest Disaster Recovery Center.

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