Incident: Hurricane Irma
When: Sept. 10, 2017, and continuing
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- FNS approved Florida's request to operate a Disaster-SNAP (D-SNAP) in response to Hurricane Irma. D-SNAP eligible households in certain affected counties received two months of benefits to meet their food needs as they settled back home following the disaster. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must have lived in an identified disaster area on Sept. 5, 2017, and met other income eligibility criteria. For more information about D-SNAP, including dates and locations, please visit the Florida Department of Children and Families website at http://www.myflorida.com/accessflorida/
- On Nov. 16, 2017, FNS approved the Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) request to modify its approved D-SNAP in the following 48 counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, Desoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union, and Volusia. The approved modification allowed elderly and disabled households, who completed their pre-registrations in the State’s online system during the D-SNAP application period, but who were unable to visit a D-SNAP site in person, to complete the required D-SNAP interview via telephone by calling the Customer Call Center on Dec. 2-3, 2017. Applicants were told to call on a specified day based on their last name.
- On Oct. 19, 2017, FNS approved DCF's request to extend the D-SNAP application period in Miami-Dade County by 1 additional day (for a total of 8 days).
- On Sept. 15, 2017, FNS approved Florida’s request to issue automatic, mass replacements of 40 percent of Sept. 2017 SNAP benefits to SNAP households in the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, Desoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gilchrist, Glades, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Suwanee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, and Wakulla. Benefits were issued to replace food that was purchased with September 2017 SNAP benefits, that was destroyed due to the disaster. Replacement benefits were automatically issued to all regular SNAP households in the affected counties by means of an automated credit to their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. Households that had already received replacement benefits based on a signed affidavit of loss were excluded from the mass replacement process. If a client submitted an affidavit after receiving a mass replacement and requested an amount greater than the replacement benefit amount received, the household was only entitled to receive the difference between the requested amount and the amount previously replaced. Replacement benefits cannot exceed the maximum monthly allotment for the household.
- On Sept. 15, 2017, FNS approved Florida's request to extend the time period to report food loss through individual affidavit. Households had until Sept. 29, 2017, to submit such affidavits.
- On Sept. 15, 2017, FNS approved a policy to provide States with the flexibility to serve Hurricane Irma evacuees. States could choose to either serve evacuees through expedited SNAP rules or through the simplified program rules in the Evacuee Policy. The Evacuee Policy applied to anyone, who at the time of Hurricane Irma was a resident of a county that received a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, did not receive SNAP benefits in the month of September 2017, and evacuated to another State that choose to apply the Policy.
- On Sept. 15, 2017, FNS approved Florida’s request to waive the periodic reporting requirements for ongoing households in all 67 counties in the State due to report in Sept. 2017, to provide administrative relief to DCF in the short term as the State recovered from the disaster, as well as provide disaster-affected households additional time to report.
- On Sept. 15, 2017, FNS approved the request to allow DCF to extend certification periods for SNAP households in all 67 counties with certification periods expiring in Sept. 2017, by 1 month; any case originally scheduled for recertification in September 2017, had to be recertified in October 2017.
- On Sept. 11, 2017, FNS approved the Florida DCF's request to waive SNAP regulations to allow program participants to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits. FNS notified authorized SNAP retailers in Florida of this waiver, which was in effect through Sept. 30, 2017.
- FNS approved Florida's request to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program to address immediate food needs. The State was approved to begin disaster household distribution of USDA Food packages in Presidentially-declared Disaster areas, on Sept. 14, 2017, to approximately 296,000 households for a period of up to 4 weeks. If D-SNAP was implemented in the distribution areas prior to 4 weeks, household distribution ended. The disaster household package contained 25-30 pounds of USDA Foods. Florida utilized its current The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distribution channels, working in collaboration with food banks in or near the counties that were Presidentially-declared Disaster areas.
- On Sept. 19, 2017, FNS approved expansion of the disaster household distribution program from 9 to 39 counties. Distribution is these additional counties began on Sept. 20, 2017.
Child Nutrition Programs
- On Nov. 21, 2017, FNS approved a request from the State of Florida to extend flexibilities previously provided to School Food Authorities (SFAs) in 3 counties that received a Major Disaster Declaration (Monroe, Collier and Lee). The approval allowed schools to continue serving meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breafast Program (SBP) at no charge to all students (and receive Federal reimbursement at the “free” rate). Further, FNS granted the State agency discretion to determine which SFAs required this flexibility on a case-by-case basis. These flexibilities were effective through Jan. 31, 2018.
- On Oct. 12, 2017, FNS approved requests from the State of Florida to extend flexibilities previously provided to SFAs and sponsors in 3 additional counties that received a Major Disaster Declaration (Monroe, Collier and Lee). The request and approval largely mirrored those issued to 48 counties from Sept. 15-18, 2017 (see below). This approval extended the flexibilities through Nov. 30, 2017.
- Between Sept. 15 and 17, 2017, FNS approved several requests from Florida to provide flexibilities to school food authorities (SFAs) and sponsors in selected counties that received a Major Disaster Declaration. These flexibilities were effective beginning between Sept. 15 and 18, 2017, depending on the county, through Oct. 20, 2017.
Summary of counties approved:
-- Sept. 15, 2017, for 13 counties: Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, Broward, Palm Beach, Glades, Hendry and Sarasota)
-- Sept. 16, 2017, for 24 additional 24 counties (Clay, Duval, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Brevard, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Marion, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, St. Lucie, Seminole, Sumter, and Volusia)
-- Sept. 17, 2017, for 11 additional counties (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Nassau, Suwannee, and Union)
Summary of waiver approvals:
-- All students in affected disaster areas, including schools currently participating in CEP, could serve free school meals through the NSLP through Oct. 20, 2017.
-- Schools had flexibility to serve meals through Oct. 20, 2017, that did not meet menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools and child care institutions in affected areas.
-- Schools had the option to operate the summer meals programs during the school year when schools had unanticipated closures without needing to offer the required educational activity. SFSP sponsors were also reminded they may also operate as emergency feeding sites.
-- When necessary, summer sites may have allowed children to take meals from sites and consume them at home.
-- Schools not directly impacted by the hurricane may have used their commodity foods to provide plated meals to shelters or other SFSP operations.
-- Other flexibilities included allowing 2 schools to use the same location and claim meals separately through the NSLP and SBP; waiving the area eligibility requirements for summer meal sites; and several waivers and extensions of timelines related to administrative and operational activities.
- On Sept. 22, 2017, FNS approved several flexibilities requested by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), to assist schools, child care centers, and sponsoring organizations operating the Child Care Food Program (CCFP). These approvals applied to all 67 counties issued a Major Disaster Declaration and expanded some flexibilities previously provided to 14 counties in Florida on Sept. 17, 2017. It also offered new/additional flexibilities for institutions and facilities. Specifically:
-- FNS offered flexibility to CCFP operators in what they could feed children, given the challenges of preparing specific foods during this period. The State reported shortages of milk and other perishable foods. Therefore, operators were able to serve meals through Oct. 20, 2017, that did not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for child care institutions and facilities in the affected areas.
-- CCFP operators could also claim and receive reimbursement at the “free” rate for all meals served to displaced children in affected areas.
-- Additional flexibilities included certain State administrative functions and confirmation of the ability of the State and CCFP institutions to file claims beyond the existing 60/90 day requirement.
- On Sept. 17, 2017, FNS approved flexibilities requested by FDOH to assist schools, child care centers, and sponsoring organizations operating the Child Care Food Program (CCFP). Approvals applied to 14 counties issued a Major Disaster Declaration in Florida (Alachua, Bradford, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Hillsborough, Nassau, Orange, Polk, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, and Volusia). Specifically:
-- Operators were able to serve meals through Oct. 20, 2017, that did not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for child care institutions and facilities in the affected areas.
-- FNS approved a waiver of monitoring requirements for CCFP sponsoring organizations and confirmation of the ability of State and CCFP institutions to file claims beyond the existing 60/90 day requirement.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- The State substituted fresh fluid milk and frozen juice. Fresh milk could be replaced by UHT or powdered milk. If stores ran out of 16 oz frozen juice, they were authorized to substitute 12 oz shelf-stable juice.
If you think you may be eligible for disaster food assistance in your State, please contact your local State office.
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