Proposed Law Would Streamline Food Assistance Application Process For Seniors

June 17, 2020

Proposed Law Would Streamline Food Assistance Application Process For Seniors - (KPBS - June 17)

It’s the monthly food distribution day at the Mira Mesa Senior Center. Eligible seniors were driving by to collect a 36-pound box of nutritious food.

But on Wednesday, the Senior Center also served as the backdrop for a demand: A call to streamline the process of applying for CalFresh for seniors.

“The process for those seniors to enroll, to receive those benefits, is very cumbersome. The application is 20 pages,” said San Diego Food Bank President & CEO James Floros.

Floros said there’s a simpler application online, but that of course requires that seniors know how to use a computer. Even applying over the phone can be difficult.

Take the case of Mira Mesa resident George Rionda and his wife. They tried applying over the phone, without success.

“We really give up because we try to call and call and call and they sent us so many, that thick of paperwork," Rionda said, stretching his arms out from side to side.

Rionda said all that confusing paperwork led to questions, which meant calling CalFresh again. “So you have to call and then when you call, the waiting is about that long, so my wife told me, what should I do? We give up.”

Bay Area Democratic Senator Scott Wiener wants to make nightmare stories like that a thing of the past. He’s put forward a bill, SB 882, which would streamline the process for seniors who need help getting food.

James Floros said the change is needed.

“It’s just streamlining the process and making it easier for seniors… Right now there’s probably about 55,000 seniors in San Diego County that are enrolled in CalFresh, but there’s another 60 or 70,000 that are still eligible,” he said.

To George Rionda, a law like that sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

“There’s a lot of seniors like us, and much worse than us that really, really, really need a simple thing, just a simple call and everything will be taken care of,” he said.

Senator Wiener’s bill is scheduled for a committee hearing on Thursday.