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Gov. Ducey wants easing of food stamp rules to help families during coronavirus emergency

Gov. Ducey wants easing of food stamp rules to help families during coronavirus emergency

From the Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order series
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State health chief Cara Christ fields questions Wednesday about COVID-19 along with Gov. Doug Ducey, left, and Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, head of the state's Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced a new series of orders, directives and requests Wednesday designed to deal with the coronavarius health emergency.

The governor said he is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow more flexibility in its food stamp program.

In general, what's known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program restricts what people can purchase, usually to certain foods for preparation at home. Ducey said he wants to allow eligible families to purchase prepared and hot meals that are available at grocery stores.

It would not, however, permit food stamps to be used at restaurants.

Ducey said he wants to allow the state Department of Economic Security, which administers the program, to approve applications without first conducting eligibility interviews. That, according to the governor's office, should result in not just quicker services but also reduce the potential health risk to both the applicant and the state workers.

Citing the scarce work opportunities, Ducey also wants to waive the requirements that students be employed for at least 20 hours a week to keep their food stamp eligibility. And he wants families to be able to get a maximum allotment for up to two months, a move state health officials say could provide an additional $25 to $150 monthly.

KidsCare enrollment

Separately, Ducey said he has gotten permission from the federal government to ensure that none of the nearly 37,000 children enrolled in the KidsCare program lose coverage because a parent is unable to afford monthly premiums.

The program is an offshoot of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. It provides care to the children of the working poor, those who earn too much to qualify for the state's Medicaid program — nearly $30,000 a year for a family of three — but may lack the resources to purchase health insurance.

KidsCare provides coverage for children in families earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $43,440 a year. But it does require some financial input from families.

The federal government needed to grant a waiver as it provides most of the finances for the program.

Aid to help senior citizens

Ducey also announced that Arizona has received more than $5.3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help Arizona communities provide meals for older adults.

Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order

Here's a look at stories surrounding local coronavirus coverage from January to March. This collection will continue to be updated. Read stories from April here. To see stories from May, click here.

See day-to-day brief updates, such as closures and other changes, here

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