Incident: Hurricane Harvey
When: Aug. 25, 2017, and continuing
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- FNS approved the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) request to operate a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in 39 counties that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The D-SNAP application period began on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, through Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in 11 counties: Dewitt, Gonzalez, Jasper, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Matagorda, Newton, Orange, Sabine and Tyler. Application sites operated from 8 am - 7 pm each day of the application period. Eligible households received 2 months of D-SNAP benefits. Click here for more information on the D-SNAP application sites.
- FNS also approved the State request to issue automatic supplements to ongoing SNAP households in 39 counties that received a presidential declaration of disaster for individual assistance. FNS approved the automatic issuance of 2 months of disaster supplemental benefits. Ongoing SNAP households in other counties affected by Hurricane Harvey that were not included in a presidential declaration of disaster for individual assistance, may have requested disaster supplements on an individual basis via signed affidavit attesting to their disaster losses. Ongoing households already receiving the maximum monthly SNAP allotment for their household size were not eligible for disaster supplements, as no household may receive more than the maximum allotment during the benefit period.
- On September 1, FNS approved a policy to provide States with flexibility to serve Hurricane Harvey evacuees. States may have chosen to either serve evacuees through expedited SNAP rules or through the simplified program rules in the Evacuee Policy. The Evacuee Policy applies to anyone who at the time of Hurricane Harvey was a resident of a county that received a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, did not receive SNAP benefits in the month of August 2017, and evacuated to another State that chose to apply the Policy.
- On September 1, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) issued all September 2017 SNAP benefits to SNAP households in the 29 counties that received a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration.
- In addition, on September 1, HHSC issued automatic, mass replacement of August 2017 SNAP benefits to SNAP households in the 29 declared counties. The mass replacement benefits were issued to replace food that was purchased with August 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 balready received replacement benefits based on a signed affidavit of loss were excluded from the mass replacement process.
- FNS approved the State's request to waive the 10-day reporting requirement for replacement of food purchased with August 2017 SNAP benefits destroyed in Angelina, Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kerr, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Trinity, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Willacy, and Wilson Counties. Affected households had until Sept. 30, 2017, to report food losses to their local offices and request replacement benefits.
- FNS approved an extension of the State’s hot foods waiver to allow households to continue to purchase hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption with their SNAP EBT benefits at SNAP authorized retailers through October 31, 2017. The extension applied to all SNAP authorized retail food stores in the State of Texas.
FNS approved the State’s hot foods’ waiver request to allow recipients to purchase hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption with their benefits at authorized SNAP retailers statewide through Sept. 30, 2017.
- On Aug. 31, FNS approved the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) request to allow HHSC to extend certification periods for SNAP households in the below 58 affected counties with certification periods expiring in August, September, or October 2017, by 6 months; any case originally scheduled for recertification in August, September, or October 2017, must now be recertified in February, March, or April 2018, respectively.
- On August 31, FNS approved the State's request to allow HHSC to waive the periodic reporting requirements for households in the below 58 affected counties due to report in August, September, or October 2017, to provide administrative relief to HHSC in the short term as the State recovers from the disaster, as well as provide disaster-affected households additional time to report.
The 58 affected counties include: Angelina, Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kerr, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Trinity, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Willacy, and Wilson.
- FNS approved Texas to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program to address immediate food needs. Packages containing USDA Food were distributed by local feeding organizations to over 23,000 households beginning Sept. 8, 2017, for up to four weeks.
- FNS approved a waiver to allow distribution of August 2017 Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) food packages in September 2017, as retroactive benefits. In September, participants may have received two CSFP food packages – an August food package and a September food package (e.g., a two month supply of food). This approval applied to the Houston and Beaumont food banks, and included all distribution sites identified to FNS as impacted by the disaster.
- Texas and The Salvation Army used USDA Foods to prepare and serve 100,000 meals to those in need.
- FNS informed Texas that it can use The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) USDA Foods to provide meals at food pantries and soup kitchens for people in need who cannot reach larger disaster feeding organizations but who are able to gather at small local organizations to eat.
Child Nutrition Programs
- On October 27, FNS approved the State of Texas’ request to extend Hurricane Harvey related waivers to schools in 12 counties that are set to expire on October 31, 2017. These waivers apply to schools, child care institutions and facilities who operate the NSLP, SBP, and CACFP. The 12 counties are: Brazoria, Calhoun, Aransas, Hardin, Harris, Jefferson, Nueces, Orange, San Patricio, Victoria, Refugio, and Chambers. The State may use its discretion in providing the flexibilities to certain school districts within the 12 counties on a case-by-case basis. Students in these areas in TX would continue to receive free school meals through the National School Lunch Program through December 31, 2017. Schools would also be able to continue to serve meals through December 31, 2017, that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools and institutions in these affected areas. Other flexibilities include: waiving meal service times for NSLP, SBP, and CACFP; allowing two schools to utilize the same location and claim meals separately through NSLP and SBP; and waivers and extensions of timelines related to administrative and operational activities.
- On September 22, FNS approved several requests from Texas related to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP):
- FNS is allowing affected schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for school year 2017-2018 to recalculate their Identified Student Percentage (ISP). Typically, the ISP must be calculated by April 1 of the prior year. Being able to calculate a new ISP can capture expected increases in numbers of students participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or designated as homeless youth, as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey. Schools using this option will have to recalculate their ISP on April 1, 2018.
- FNS also approved the State of Texas’ request to extend Hurricane Harvey related waivers in 22 counties that are set to expire on September 30th. These waivers applied to schools, child care institutions and facilities who operated the NSLP, SBP, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
- The 22 counties were: Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Aransas, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Newton, Nueces, Orange, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Refugio, Chambers, Jackson, Wharton, and Fort Bend.
- These waivers were previously approved by FNS on either August 29, August 30 or August 31.
- All students in these 22 counties in TX will continue to receive free school meals through the NSLP through October 31. Schools will be reimbursed at the free rate for all meals served.
- FNS also continued to provide more flexibility to schools in what they could feed kids, and when, given the challenges of preparing specific foods during this period. Therefore, schools could continue to serve meals through October 31 that did not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools and institutions in these affected areas.
- The State provided schools the option to operate the SSO during the school year when schools had unanticipated closures. Additionally, FNS allowed Texas to waive the area eligibility requirements for CACFP, SFSP, and the SSO.
- In the 22 counties, Texas may have allowed operators of the SFSP to send food home with children, instead of eating it onsite in a congregate setting.
- Other flexibilities included: allowing two schools to utilize the same location and claim meals separately through NSLP and SBP; and waivers and extensions of timelines related to administrative and operational activities.
On September 5, FNS approved Texas’ request to have more time for, or put on hold, deadlines related to appeals from Child Nutrition operators related to fiscal or other adverse actions. This will give the State relief in focusing on more time-sensitive issues in the present time, and allow all parties to have additional time for the process. This approval is effective through Dec. 31, 2017.
FNS approved additional requests from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for waivers or program flexibilities to program requirements of the NSLP, SBP, SFSP, CACFP, and the CSFP, including:
- Approval to implement non-congregate feeding through the NSLP's SSO and the SFSP, as needed, with prior notification to the FNS Southwest Regional Office
- Approval to allow two schools to utilize the same location and claim meals separately through the NSLP and SBP. The site may not exceed the maximum number of meals allowed under regulation.
- Approval of a waiver of the timeliness for submission of corrective actions from areas in which TDA has received notification of postal service interruption. Instead, for corrective action due through September 30, 2017, the State agency had discretion in establishing longer corrective action timelines on a case-by-case-basis.
- Approval to waive the area eligibility requirements for the SFSP, Seamless Summer Option, and the at-risk afterschool meals component of CACFP through September 30, 2017.
On August 29, FNS approved the State's request for waivers or program flexibilities in NSLP, SBP, SFSP, CACFP, and the CSFP. The approvals allowed all schools and child care institutions and facilities in declared disaster counties to waive meal pattern requirements through September 30, 2017; and, schools in affected counties, including those currently participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, to provide meals at no charge to students and be reimbursed for all meals served at the Free reimbursable rate through September 30, 2017.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- On September 3, FNS approved the State's request to substitute certain WIC-approved food items (fluid milk, bread and eggs) through September 24, 2017, due to regional demand and supply chain disruptions caused by Hurricane Harvey.
If you think you may be eligible for disaster food assistance in your State, please contact your local State office.
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