State Legislature Expands Who's Eligible for Food Benefits - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

State Legislature Expands Who's Eligible for Food Benefits

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YAKIMA--More families could become eligible to get food benefits from the government.   Governor Christine Gregoire and the state lawmakers have raised the maximum monthly income so more people can get help.

3,000 to 4,000 more low-income households will be able to get aid through the basic food program.  Right now a family of four making less than $26,900 is eligible for food benefits.  On October 1 the limit goes up to $42,400.  

The new rules also will increase the number of families that can get free or reduced-cost schools meals, and helps senior citizens on fixed incomes.   Social Services officials hope these changes help people cope with tough economic times.

"We're hoping that we can mitigate some of the economic crisis and problems that are going on there," Teresa Herrera, Regional Financial Coordinator for Yakima County DSHS, said.  "[These issues] are forcing people to choose between [paying] their light bill and whether their children eat."

The Department of Social and Health Services has been spreading the word to try to get eligible families signed up for basic food benefits.   They are also providing nutrition education to low-income households.