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The Public Benefits Unit

The South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) Public Benefits Unit met in the Columbia office in April 2019 to learn about SNAP Benefits for their first unit meeting of the 2019 calendar year. Attorney Bridget Owens with SC Appleseed provided an overview of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-formerly known as Food Stamps) in South Carolina and how it can help SCLS clients.

Representing clients in SNAP denial and cessation cases is a critical part of bridging the hunger gap in South Carolina. One in seven people (679,990) and one in five children (202,110) struggled with hunger in South Carolina in 2017. [1] Access to healthy food is an even larger problem. In 2014, a report by the US Department of Agriculture revealed that more than 1 million low-income South Carolinians live in food deserts. Food deserts are defined as areas that are more than one mile from a grocery store in urban areas and more than ten miles from a grocery store in rural areas, and where there is limited access to other outlets including food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets and corner stores.[2]

SNAP came to the forefront earlier this year with the early release of SNAP benefits due to the government shut down. SCLS and other community partners worked to inform our clients and other SNAP recipients that the early payments received for February were not bonus payments, and no additional SNAP benefits would be received until March 2019. We developed and posted flyers in all SCLS offices and educated our staff so they could keep our clients informed.

In addition to SNAP cases, the Public Benefits Unit provides representation to clients in Medicaid and Medicare cases, certain Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI) cases that are not usually served by the private bar, veteran benefits and other income maintenance cases.

If you have a public benefits issue, contact us to see if you are eligible for representation. You can apply online at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake or call our statewide Intake Office at 1-888-346-5592.


[1] Feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/south-carolina

[2] http://newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/clemson-extension-working-to-eliminate-food-deserts-through-feeding-innovation-program/

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