An elderly woman with a cane maneuvered out of a car in front of a former Kroger store at 200 Interstate in League City to stand behind a teenager with a baby on her hip.
They were in a line with other retirees and young mothers to apply for disaster food assistance from Texas Health and Human Services. The state opened a League City office after Hurricane Harvey to help Galveston County residents who meet income requirements apply for food benefits.
The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers short-term help to families recovering from a disaster by expanding access to food stamps.
On Monday, 2,600 applicants went to the center, League City Emergency Management Director Ryan Edghill said. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the number had surpassed 2,000 and was expected to match or exceed Monday’s numbers.
No spots were left Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot in front of the former Kroger that has been turned into a disaster relief center.
The center will stay open until 7 p.m. each night until Sunday, then the temporary center closes.
Adriana Gonzalez, 18, applied for the short-term food assistance Tuesday and will find out Friday how much aid she will get. She lives in Dickinson with her 10-month-old baby, her mother, her brother and her boyfriend.
“We lost our furniture, and we had to replace floors and Sheetrock,” Gonzalez said. “And all of our beds.”
She had been staying home with her baby, but since Hurricane Harvey, she had to take a job to make money to help replace furniture and other basic needs, she said.
After she registered for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, she received a card she can use at grocery stores. On Friday, that card will be loaded with money that can be used to buy food only.
Her benefits won’t have a deadline, so whatever amount the state approves on Friday Gonzalez can stretch out to help make ends meet, she said.
Johana Ventura, 17, who is a Dickinson resident, also applied for food assistance Tuesday. She was at the center with her 8-month-old baby; they’re staying with 10 extended family members in a post-Harvey household. Their refrigerator isn’t working anymore, she said.
The disaster food assistance program differs from the state’s regular food assistance program, or SNAP, which typically requires people to earn close to minimum wage to qualify.
For instance, a person would need a net monthly income of $990 or less to qualify for the traditional food benefits program, according to the program. But in areas declared under disaster, people could qualify for short-term food assistance if their net monthly income was $1,664 or less, according to the health department, which administers the federal funding.
The governor’s office first announced the program on Sept. 11, but said then that some counties under the federal disaster declaration, including Galveston, would not open until the state found the sites.
The League City site is open to all Galveston County residents. State employees were like bouncers as they stood at the door of the center and asked every person approaching the door whether they lived in Galveston County.
Residents began signing up Monday, based on the first letter of their last name. Today, residents whose last names begin with N to R can register. Friday, residents whose last names begin with S to Z can register. On Saturday and Sunday, anyone can register.
The program is temporary, according to the state.
“It was very easy,” La Marque resident Bobbie Haley, 81, said. “There was no waiting for me because I’m older. That’s one advantage.”