Federal emergency help food has been approved for Iowa and the Department of Human Services will begin taking applications today. D.H.S. spokesman Roger Munns says residents of the 32 Iowan counties approved for individual assistance under the presidential disaster declaration for the recent storms can apply for the one-time benefit.

Munns says it’s similar to the normal food assistance program, formerly known as food stamps, but the eligibility criteria have been relaxed. He says one of the more important criteria takes the amount of damage you suffered compared to your monthly income. The amount you receive is also based on the number of people in your household and can range from $367 to over $600.

Munns says you can go to any D.H.S county office to sign up and you do not have to sign up in the county where you live, and you can also go to the federal disaster recovery center in Des Moines. Munns says they’ll soon make an announcement on when part-time D.H.S. offices will be open to take applications. Munns says it’s not a large amount of money, but it does help those who’re trying to recover.

“When you’re dealing with trying to figure out how to straighten out your basement, or how to recover from the property damage of a flood, you’ve got a lot of other things on your mind besides how you’re gonna to go to the grocery store. So if you can have this one thing taken care of for you….it’s very helpful,” Munns says. He says past experience shows the food help is something many disaster victims can use.

Munns says 2008 was a much larger disaster, and 35,000 people qualified for the benefit. He says about 85% of the people who applied in 2008 would not have been eligible for the benefit under the regular program. The deadline to sign up is August 30th.

The benefits are available for the following counties: Black Hawk, Cherokee, Clayton, Decatur, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Franklin, Hamilton, Howard, Humboldt, Ida, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Kossuth, Lee, Lucas, Lyon, Mahaska, Marion, O’Brien, Osceola, Polk, Ringgold, Sioux, Story, Taylor, Union, Warren, Webster, and Wright.