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RI family denied SNAP benefits after state mixup

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SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Meghan and Richard Amaral lost their house a year ago.

Since then, the couple and their children, a 28-year-old and a 4-year-old, have been staying wherever they can. Most recently — a motel in Seekonk.

Richard is on disability; Meghan just lost her job. Desperate to make ends meet, they recently applied for SNAP benefits for food in Rhode Island.

Despite having Rhode Island identification and calling the Ocean State home, the family’s application for assistance was denied — apparently due to bureaucratic confusion over which state is really their home.

Richard said a DHS employee told him they “were denied because we no longer reside in Rhode Island.”

“We’ve just been [at the Seekonk motel] for three weeks,” he said. “It’s a motel, and it didn’t matter. We no longer stay in Rhode Island. They can’t help us.”

But when Meghan called the Massachusetts office that handles SNAP, “they basically said, ‘We can’t help you either,'” he said.

Because of privacy, the R.I. Department of Human Services is not allowed to discuss individual cases, so the agency was not able to tell Call 12 for Action why the Amarals’ application for assistance was denied.

But within a day of Call 12 for Action asking questions their case was reconsidered, and the family was approved for SNAP benefits late last week, according to Meghan.

In an email, DHS spokesperson Alisha Pina said, “None of our public benefits require a permanent address to receive assistance.”

However, applicants do have to prove Rhode Island residency. Several options would be sufficient, according to Pina, including a state ID, a voter registration card, mail from SSI, or a form signed by a local homeless shelter administrator.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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