Bay City News Service -- Sonoma County secured an additional $1.5 million in disaster Cal Fresh food benefits for low-income families, the county's Human Services Department said Tuesday.

The $1.5 million for temporary Disaster CalFresh benefits is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The benefit is a one-time emergency allotment of funds on electronic transfer cards that can be used like a debit card at participating food stores and farmers markets.

The Human Services Department's Economic Assistance Division took 2,188 applications for disaster CalFresh between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1. The benefits to new CalFresh households affected by the wildfires in October received a total of $522,389.

Some affected households already receiving regular CalFresh, Medi-Cal or CalWORKS benefits got an additional benefit supplement added automatically by the Economic Assistance Division staff. The total disaster CalFresh supplement program to ongoing beneficiaries was $927,465.

The disaster CalFresh benefits were for residents, regardless of immigration status, who lived or worked in Sonoma County and were affected by the wildfires. Some lost homes or businesses, income, food because of power outages or had temporary housing or evacuation costs.

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Income limits were temporarily lowered under disaster CalFresh from regular CalFresh levels to make more households eligible.

The last disbursement of disaster CalFresh benefit funds was Nov. 14.

The Economic Assistance Division staff included some employees who lost homes. The main Santa Rosa building was closed for several days, so staff worked in the downtown office and set up computers at the Local Assistance Center, Economic Assistance Center Director Kim Seamans said.

The Economic Assistance Division stayed open on weekends to accommodate the increased need for food benefits during the short application period, Seamans said.

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