MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A barrier to getting hungry people food -- that's how one organization is describing the process of getting emergency food stamps after Monday's storms. For those with extended power outages, it means some of the food in their freezer or refrigerator may be bad. To get the emergency benefit -- there's an additional step in the process.
The Hunger Task Force on Wednesday, July 2nd delivered needed food to West Allis' Heritage House -- a 143-unit assisted living community.
Monday's storms knocked out power to the Heritage House for more than 30 hours.
People like Betty Bishop had to sort through what food could be spoiled.
Bishop says she's considering applying for emergency food benefits to help replace what's lost -- but getting the assistance may not come easy.
"I haven't experienced this many hurdles to get emergency food stamps and I've been here for 17 years," Sherri Tussler -- the Director of the Hunger Task Force.
Tussler says there are about a quarter of a million people in Milwaukee County using food stamps.
In the past, she says they would fill out a form at the welfare office -- but now, a policy change requires people to contact We Energies to get proof they've been impacted by a power outage.
After receiving a letter, fax or email from We Energies, folks can then visit the welfare office.
"It's definitely a barrier to poor people who need food and a lot of those people are children, a lot of those people are seniors," Tussler said.
Tussler fears 2010 concerns about emergency food stamp fraud drove the policy change.
That's when thousands in Milwaukee County waited in long lines for the benefit following severe flooding.
"I can totally see that argument the state does have responsibility to have proof," Tussler said.
"It's sad. It sure is. Because a lot of people need it so badly," one person said.
As thousands consider what to do with their food after a lengthy power outage, the reality is that without help for some, there may be no good choices.
"Are you going to eat it or are you going to go hungry -- and if you eat it are you going to place yourself at risk?" Tussler said.
The individuals and families who are still without power in the Milwaukee area are eligible for emergency FoodShare benefits to replace food purchased with FoodShare benefits that was spoiled due to lack of refrigeration or freezing.
Households without power are able to report the loss of food purchased with FoodShare benefits within ten days of the loss (by July 10, 2014), either orally or in writing.
To do so, one needs to complete a “Request for Replacement FoodShare Benefits” and they must also provide proof from We Energies that they experienced an extended power outage.
Hunger Task Force staff are available to assist with the Request for Replacement FoodShare Benefits form.
Staff are available at the Coggs Center, 1220 W. Vliet Street, Robles Center, 910 W. Mitchell Street and UMOS at 2701 S. Chase Ave.
They are available Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., but both offices will be closed for the Fourth of July.
For proof of power outage, We Energies can be reached 24 hours a day at 1-800-242-9137.