Governor Jay Inslee announces steps to preserve SNAP benefits for Washington families in need

Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday announced steps to preserve Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for approximately 200,000 households in Washington. The changes will prevent the loss of nearly $70 million in federal SNAP benefits resulting from policy changes in a new Farm Bill passed by Congress.

“Governor Inslee’s decision to protect Washington families from food stamp cuts is a smart and principled decision–and it is the right thing to do by our kids. Hungry kids can’t learn. Food stamps are our number-one defense against childhood hunger,” said Jon Gould, Deputy Director of the Children’s Alliance.

A household’s SNAP benefits are calculated by factoring in a household’s eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The new Farm Bill made changes to the “Heat and Eat” option, which now requires states to provide a household $20 in LIHEAP assistance to maximize SNAP benefits. The prior law required that Washington only provide $1. Under the modified program, the Department of Social and Health Services will work with the Department of Commerce to provide $20 of LIHEAP assistance to eligible households, ensuring low-income families will remain eligible for up to $90 a month of SNAP benefits.

Washington joins seven other states in adopting this approach. This will not only help maintain economic stability for vulnerable families but for businesses in Washington, as the USDA estimates that every SNAP dollar spent generates about $2 in economic activity.

“Obviously, the loss of tens of millions of dollars aimed at feeding hungry families is not acceptable. These families have already suffered from significant reductions in the help they receive, and this $90 a month is the only way many families and seniors are able to put any food on their table. That is why my office brought together leaders from our state agencies and the community to figure out a compromise,” said Governor Inslee.

“Significant changes to the Heat and Eat option required some difficult choices for our state,” said Brian Bonlender, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “Working together with our partners at DSHS, we evaluated every option and concluded that this solution is the best way to help more families fill the gap in their monthly food budget, while still providing needed financial assistance with heating bills.”

SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) is a fully federally-funded food benefit program administered by the Department of Social and Health Services on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). LIHEAP is also fully federally-funded and is administered by the Department of Commerce. Together, the programs help nearly one in seven residents throughout the state meet their most basic needs.

DSHS is a national leader in efficient SNAP administration. It was among the first states to examine how human services are delivered and to make changes to streamline operations while maintaining excellent services to clients. Washington’s benefits accuracy rate is more than 98 percent.

“Under Governor Inslee and DSHS Secretary Kevin W. Quigley’s leadership, we were able to find a solution that does not force some of the most vulnerable families in Washington state, including elderly and disabled individuals, to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children,” said David Stillman, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services’ Economic Services Administration. “This is an important effort to ensure people are safe, healthy and supported and taxpayer resources are safeguarded.”

The state will now ask all SNAP applicants for proof of utility payments. In cases where clients have no separate utility bills, like low-income senior citizens whose rent includes utilities, clients will be enrolled in the LIHEAP program and given $20 of heating benefit. This will also qualify them for the highest utility deduction, thereby preserving higher SNAP benefits.

Plans to End Childhood Hunger in WA by 2015

Organizers say the campaign is a public-private partnership to close the gaps between existing food resources and the families who need them. The plan was developed by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

The campaign is aimed at breaking down barriers to participation in programs that are already in place, says Bridges, including nutrition education and such federal anti-hunger efforts as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the School Lunch and Breakfast programs.

“Right now there’s over a billion dollars that’s available for states to use for these programs that is not being used.”

He says they are simply asking people to pledge their concern.

“By taking this pledge, I’m adding my voice to the national movement of people who are committed to ending childhood hunger in America by 2015.”

In Washington, Share Our Strength has partnered with The Children’s Alliance to launch a state-specific No Kid Hungry Campaign that includes a ten-point plan to end childhood hunger. More information is available at www.nokidhungry.org.

Two Birds in Grant County Test Positive For First West Nile Virus in State

West Nile virus is unpredictable and there’s no way to know how much activity will be seen in a given year. Last year was the state’s most active with 38 human infection cases including the first death from the virus. It was also detected in numerous dead birds, horses, and mosquito samples.

“We haven’t seen West Nile activity as strong this year as we have in previous years, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” said Gregg Grunenfelder, environmental health division assistant secretary for the Department of Health. “Mosquitoes are still out there so it’s important people continue to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.”

While it’s getting late in the mosquito season, people should continue to protect themselves against West Nile (www.doh.wa.gov/wnv) by avoiding mosquito bites, at least until the first cold snap that reduces the mosquito populations. Start preparing for the off-season by removing standing water around your home. Clean out gutters, keep water fresh in birdbaths and pet dishes, and fix leaky outdoor sprinklers and faucets.

As hunting seasons get under way, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends hunters follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (www.cdc.gov/Features/HuntingSafety) to avoid diseases transmitted from animals to people. That includes wearing gloves while handling game, safely field-dressing game, and using proper cooking and storage procedures. This time of year, hunters should also take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

The state Department of Health encourages people to report dead birds through October using the online dead bird reporting system (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/WNV/reportdeadbird.html).

WA Weatherization Programs: Jobs Up, Power Bills Down

Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners (SNAP) runs the energy-efficiency program in that area, both for homeowners and renters. When her landlord dragged his feet on making repairs, SNAP client Shasta Fasolo says she applied for energy assistance to help with high power bills – and decided weatherization was a smarter alternative.

"A monthly utility bill in the cold weather was roughly $180 to $200. And my first utility bill after they put in the windows, the new door, they sealed a lot of the cracks and holes in the house – it dropped by at least one-third."

In total, the 30 community action agencies around the state have received $59 million in Recovery Act funds for weatherization programs. The goal is to cut energy bills for more than 7,000 homes, while keeping and growing local jobs.

Hoquiam Farmers Market News – Warm Weather Edition

Lettuce is another gratifying veggie that is quick and easy to grow. Julie has been bringing in containers of her lovely salad greens, and hers are as pretty as a picture! Little delicate fluffs of gourmet lettuce, topped by nasturtium blossoms. All ready to eat, with or without salad dressing. Julie’s herbs , peas, snap peas and beans are also doing well and are just as pretty as the salad greens. I’d be green with envy except that I enjoy eating every last morsel!

We also have lovely green and yellow zucchini, cherries from Yakima, and Walla Walla sweet onions. In this extremely hot weather, we will be keeping some of our delicate produce in the inside coolers, so if you can’t spot what you’re looking for, be sure to ask us.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy cooking inside during hot weather. This is the time for the barbeque grill to emerge from a long slumber and take center stage!

Is barbequing your particular speciality? Does your heart thrill to scent of charcoal? Are you the one that always gets asked to bring the fabulous ribs to the picnic?
If so, here is your opportunity to pit your considerable skills in a competitive arena. An engraved trophy pronouncing you as the Big Dog of BBQ would look so fine on the mantle. You would be guaranteed bragging rights for at least 2 months, minimum! Plus- there are cash prizes! First place, $500.00, second place, $250.00, and third place $100.00. Fame and fortune-all of this could be yours, and there is absolutely no entry fee required.

On July 31st, a Hometown Hoquiam boy is bringing the Satsop River Rock Festival Reunion to the Olympic Stadium. In the tradition of any rock festival, this will be an all-day event. Music all day and on into the night means that food is needed. Which is where the barbeque contest enters into the picture. There are four categories; chicken, ribs, pork (shoulder or butt) and brisket. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

Where, you might ask, does one procure a judge worthy of pronouncing the best of the best? Why, at the Hoquiam Farmers Market, of course! Our own Anthony Stricevich will be master of the contest, and his credentials are impeccable. What Anthony doesn’t know about barbequing meat is not worth knowing. This is your chance to prove that you really do know your stuff. You have 4 weeks to perfect your skills- let me know if you need someone to do any testing, I am at your service.
The deadline to enter the contest is July 10th, individuals or teams are welcome. Give Anthony a call at 360-589-9576 or register online at http://www.satsopriverrockfestival.com/vendors.htm

Be sure to savor these precious summer days. Find a shady spot, read a book, cherish the perfume of warm earth. Take a deep breath and feel the goodness of our clean pure air. How lucky we are!

Barbara Bennett Parsons, manager of the Hoquiam Farmers Market and Deidra’s Deli. Stop by and see us! Call 538-9747 for orders or questions

Cut water use, North Beach officials tell Pacific County system’s customers

“People should be aware that we could face a water shortage,” said the North Beach district’s Michael Berlien, “and reduce their water usage accordingly. Shorter, less frequent showers and fewer flushes will help until our reservoirs, wells and water treatment plant are restored.”

The system hasn’t been able to locate and repair all of the leaks. It’s now losing water faster than it can replenish the supply.

Many residences weren’t occupied during the recent cold snap and when the thawing began, the district couldn’t keep up with the water demands. About half of the district’s customers don’t continually occupy their houses in the winter, so if lines are broken and people don’t know it the water will keep running. That may cause lowering of reservoir levels to a critical point.

The district has notified its customers to conserve water as much as possible until broken lines can be found and fixed.  However, the district is concerned that homeowners who are out of the area won’t get the notice. It’s very difficult to find all the leaks and repair them unless the customers report their line breaks.

The incident is a reminder that people who have a second residence that was unoccupied during the recent freeze should check to see if pipes broke and water leaked. The main valve to the building should be turned off immediately to prevent further leakage and the damage it can cause. Repairs can be made later.

People who can’t personally check the residence should contact someone who lives near the home and ask that person to check it out. Many recreational homes on the beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains and other locales of the state may have been affected by the freezing period. It’s particularly important to check if the home is served by a water utility that could have trouble keeping up with water demands because of excessive leakage.

North Beach’s water is safe to use. There just isn’t enough of it.

“Until further notice, tap water remains safe for drinking, bathing and brushing teeth,” added Teresa Walker, the Department of Health engineer assisting North Beach. “Assuring safe drinking water is our highest priority, and we’re working with system officials to achieve that goal. We’ll monitor the system’s water quality and work with them to notify customers if the situation changes.”

Customers are also advised to be careful how they use any unapproved sources of water that are available on their property. This includes agricultural wells or streams. Such water should not be used for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth.