TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Nearly 1 in 5 New Jersey households that received emergency food stamps after Tropical Storm Irene crashed into the state last year were ineligible for the benefits, a review found, the result of a mix of mistakes, confusion and fraud as some rushed to cash in what was a new program for the state.
The emergency Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, now known as D-SNAP, has been around for nearly 40 years as one of the federal government’s ways to provide food in disasters. While other states have used it before, New Jersey activated D-SNAP for the first time as a result of the scope of Irene, which caused widespread wind damage, power outages affecting nearly 2 million homes and massive flooding after it hit the state just barely below a hurricane level last August.
As word spread about the extra food stamp aid, government officials said, thousands of people who were ineligible rushed to cash in in some communities, including areas not hard-hit by the storm.
“It’s whisper down the lane,” said New Jersey Human Services spokeswoman Nicole Brossoie. “Folks came and lined up believing they were eligible for a program.”
The total cost of benefits to New