PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced a new series of orders, directives and requests Wednesday designed to deal with COVID-19.
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.
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 percent 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.
Along the same lines, the governor said he was waiving requirements that a physician personally oversee the activities of certified nurse anesthetists, “freeing them up to provide other needed medical services.’’
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. The funds are part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act approved earlier this month by Congress.