ESSEX — More people are learning about state and federal programs in order to better their lives thanks to the Essex library and Humanim.
Every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. a representative from Humanim, a non-profit organization that supports and empowers people who face social and or economic challenges, talks to people at the Essex library about how they may qualify for certain federal program benefits.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Supplemental Security income (SSI) are just two of the programs the Humanim representative talks about.
Stacy McNish, Humanim Consumer Benefits Coordinator, is the only representative who goes to the Essex branch every week to assist people. She said her role is to act as a middleman between people who need to receive SNAP and the social services offices.
“The local social services branches do their best but they sometimes are overwhelmed and they have to rush through people. They don’t have the time or maybe the people skills to really take the time to explain why the polices are the way they are,” McNish said.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have a friendly person away from there to say this is how it works. I give them a plan, a strategy, so they feel more empowered.”
McNish said because she is an authorized representative she can do interviews for people who want to receive SNAP benefits, sign applications and deliver applications to the social security offices.
“Anyone can turn in documents, even if they aren’t an authorized representative, as long as you get a receipt. This is especially beneficial for people who are homebound.”
While she is teaching people about SNAP, McNish also informs them about EID, which is a program administered by the Maryland Department of Health that provides Medicaid to working Marylanders with disabilities.
”Maryland is one of the only states that have this wonderful program. Basically it’s a buy in for medical assistance which is crucial,” McNish said.
”Sometimes when people work they lose medical assistance, and these are individuals who need it to stay working. So it’s kind of counterintuitive.”
However, according to McNish and the Maryland Department of Health, people can still receive medical assistance if they work. In fact, one of the requirements in order to be eligible for the EID program is to work for pay.
Other requirements are: People must meet the resource asset limit of $10,000, be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years old and not yet 65 years old and have a disability that meets Social Security’s medical criteria.
Monthly premiums, or the cost of being enrolled in the EID program each month, are $0, $25, $40 or $55 dollars per month depending on a person’s income.
McNish said throughout her 8 years of helping people enroll in these programs she has seen many of them improve their social, physical, mental and financial health.
”I have one woman and her son who needed help with their food stamps. I realized they had some addiction problems and mental health issues. So I got them connected with the SOAR program which helps people with mental illness get on disability and get more access to care,” McNish said.
McNish said the woman and her son where then able to receive food and the health care they needed to get back on their feet. The last time McNish checked in on them they were in the processes of getting their own home and doing much better.
”Things like that make the rougher days worth it,” McNish said. “Even when people are frustrated with me and are angry, I don’t take it personally and I roll with the punches.”
McNish can “roll with the punches” because she understands why people may be frustrated. She was once homeless and on food stamps herself.
”When I first had my son, me and my husband we couldn’t get it together. I was working as a cashier and one day I saw people bringing in people from residential homes in to do their grocery shopping and I thought to myself that I could do that,” McNish said.
”I saw though that some people where not too friendly towards the people they were helping. I then knew I had the personality to do it because in my own home I noticed when I was bright and friendly with my mom she did a lot better,” McNish said.
McNish’s mother was often times depressed and she also had experience helping her father, husband, son and other family members who all have their own mental health issues.
”I just kind of live this life of taking care of people so I thought I could start getting paid for it,” McNish said.
”Everything that life threw at me completely prepared me to do exactly what I’m doing now.”
McNish said having the experience of living through tough life circumstances and helping her family improve their mental health makes it easier for people to feel comfortable around her.
”If I can get people to laugh once, just one time, I can build a relationship of trust so that when they are really down when they see me they already start making progress and healing.”
People may be hesitant to reach out for help or may feel they aren’t qualified to receive SNAP. However, talking with McNish at the Essex library may debunk the assumptions people may have.
”This is my home town and I know this area. This is a middle class area. You would be surprised how many people actually do qualify and they miss out on this resource,” she said.
McNish will be at the Essex Library every Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If she’s not in her designated meeting area, then she is probably talking to people throughout and outside of the library to see if they need help with SNAP, other federal programs, or simply a nice person to talk to.