USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have made long-term plans for ensuring Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey have access to food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).
“USDA and Texas have the same goal here, to first and foremost, help those in need,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We are working closely with Texas every step of the way to determine the most effective, efficient means of responding to Harvey, and the steps we’ve announced today help pave a path for immediate and longer term assistance.”
Effective immediately, the plan involves a number of short-term solutions including issuing replacement benefits to SNAP households that lost food in the Hurricane Harvey disaster and waivers simplifying state administration of the program. These complement already-existing options, such as the multiple congregate feeding sites offering hot meals prepared using USDA Foods, to ensure those affected by the disaster have access to food in the short-term.
FNS and Texas are simultaneously preparing for longer-term solutions including D-SNAP, which will be implemented once the commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are back in their homes. D-SNAP provides streamlined and expanded nutrition assistance after a disaster.
“This is an unprecedented disaster. We’re doing everything we can for Texans and members of our own HHSC family who were affected by this terrible storm. We’re working fast to roll benefits out to people in need,” said Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Charles Smith. “Texans dealing with the aftermath of Harvey need access to food benefits to replace what they lost in the storm, and we’re planning ahead for longer-term needs.”
Details of recent actions impacting affected counties in Texas include:
• SNAP households that used their August benefits to buy food that was lost in the disaster will automatically have a percentage of their total monthly benefits added to their EBT card to allow them to replace lost food quickly.
• Households that did not receive replacement benefits automatically will now have 30 days to report food loss, rather than the typical 10 days.
• Households with benefits set to expire in August, September, or October of 2017, will have their cases extended for 6 months. Households who were required to report changes in their circumstances during the months of August, September, or October 2017 will be excused from this requirement. This will give the state the flexibility it needs to serve new households impacted by Hurricane Harvey and still provide good customer service to all SNAP households.
In addition, Texas issued all September benefits today, rather than staggering them through the first 15 days of the month, to help meet the immediate needs of current SNAP clients.
“USDA offers states many types of assistance following natural disasters from rescue to recovery and all points in between,” Perdue emphasized. “While D-SNAP is an important step in the recovery process, it is not the first step. We need to do everything we can to help people in need, but we’ve got to do it right,” said Perdue.
The actions announced today are the latest in an ongoing series of USDA actions taken to help those affected by the storm, including a waiver to allow all disaster affected schools to provide meals to all students at no charge and be reimbursed at the free reimbursement rate through September 30. In addition, local disaster organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Southern Baptist Men continue to utilize USDA Foods to serve hot meals in congregate shelters.