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Report: Thousands of Arizonans Missing Out on Free Food

November 3, 2008

Phoenix, AZ – As the economic downturn deepens, thousands of eligible Arizonans could be receiving help with their monthly food bills if they would only ask. Social service agencies are scrambling to spread the word as a new report from the Food Action and Research Center shows Maricopa County residents alone are potentially losing out on $105 million a year in food stamp aid.

Arizona's shortfall would be even greater if not for the efforts of private social service agencies. Katie Kahle, Program Manager of the Arizona Community Action Association, says the private agencies assist overextended state enrollment workers by doing outreach.

"They can help people do the pre-screening to see if they might be eligible. They can get them information, and they can also help them fill out their applications and submit them."

Kahle explains that the number of food stamp-eligible Arizona residents continues to rise because of population growth and the recession. But the state is unable to hire additional food stamp workers because of a looming billion-dollar budget deficit.

According to Ginny Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, food stamps help families that are trying to get by with part-time jobs, or those who are looking for jobs, by freeing up some of their scarce cash for other expenses.

"That means you're taking the precious little resources you have to buy food, when you might use those resources to help pay your utility bill, or buy a prescription for your child."

Aside from ensuring that families are able to obtain proper nutrition, Katie Kahle says food stamps are part of the safety net for when jobs disappear in a sour economy.

"For a lot of people it really does mean that they are able to go out and find employment if they get laid off, because they don't have to worry about where their family's next meal is coming from."

The Arizona Community Action Association has an interactive website to help determine eligibility for Food Stamps or 24 other assistance programs, at www.arizonaselfhelp.org.

The report from the em>Food Action and Research Center is at
www.frac.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ