FNS Disaster Assistance
U.S. Virgin Islands
Incident: Hurricane Maria
When: Sept. 20, 2017, and continuing
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- On Oct. 31, 2017, FNS approved the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services' (VIDHS) request to operate a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in the districts of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas (which includes Water Island) in response to the combined impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. VIDHS accepted D-SNAP applications in St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas from Monday, November 6, through Thursday, November 9, and resumed on Monday, November 13, through Wednesday, November 18. The hours of operation for all application sites was from 7am – 6pm. VIDHS certified eligible households for 2 months, and issue the maximum allotment for the household’s size based on FNS’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Disaster Gross Income Limits. Only households that resided in the 3 approved districts on September 6 or September 20, 2017, as applicable, were eligible. VIDHS had the option to automatically issue disaster supplements to all ongoing SNAP households in the approved areas for the months of October and November 2018. Ongoing SNAP households already receiving the maximum monthly SNAP allotment for their household size were not eligible for disaster supplements. No household were eligible to receive more than the maximum monthly allotment for their household size.
Child Nutrition Programs
- On April 5, 2018, FNS approved USVI’s request to extend one Hurricane Maria related waiver to Child Nutrition Program operators. This waiver applied to schools and residential child care institutions that operated the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The previous waiver period expired on April 2, 2018. Schools and residential child care institutions retained the flexibility to serve meals that did not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements through June 30, 2018.
- On December 28, 2017, FNS approved USVI’s request to extend a limited number of Hurricane Irma and Maria related waivers to schools and child care institutions, which were set to expire on December 31, 2017. These waivers applied to schools that operated the NSLP and SBP and child care institutions that operated the CACFP. Schools in USVI had the option to serve and claim all NSLP and SBP meals and snacks at the Free Reimbursement Rate through January 31, 2018. Schools operating the NSLP and SBP and CACFP institutions were able to serve meals that did not meet menu planning or meal pattern requirements through March 2, 2018. Additionally, two schools were allowed to utilize the same location and claim meals through the NSLP and SBP, separately, as necessary, through March 2, 2018.
- On October 20 (St. Croix only) and October 6 (St. Thomas and St. John only), FNS approved a request from the U.S. Virgin Islands to provide flexibility to schools in what they can serve students, and when, in the Federal school meal programs, given the challenges of preparing specific foods during this period. Therefore, schools on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix were able to serve meals through December 31, 2017, that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements for schools in the affected areas. FNS also allowed two schools to utilize the same location and claim meals separately through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program through December 31, 2017. The meal pattern flexibilities also applied for operators of the Child and Adult Care Food Program for St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix through December 31, 2017.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
- On October 10, FNS approved USVI's request which allowed the Virgin Islands to continue to issue September WIC food benefits to families that were unable to receive them in September and allowed vendors to accept all WIC benefits with a first date of use in September through Oct. 31, 2017.
Incident: Hurricane Irma
When: Sept. 7, 2017, and continuing
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- On December 27, FNS approved USVI’s amended request to extend the hot foods waiver until February 12, 2018. This allowed households to continue to purchase hot meals from SNAP authorized stores.
- On September 13, 2017, FNS approved the Territory's request to issue automatic mass replacement of 100 percent of September 2017 benefits for the residents that suffered food losses resulting from Hurricane Irma. Replacement benefits were automatically issued to all regular SNAP households, by means of an automated credit to their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards once connectivity with the USVI's EBT processor was established. Households that had already received replacement benefits based on a signed affidavit of loss were excluded from the mass replacement process.
- On September 12, 2017, FNS approved the Territory’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 Territory wide through Nov. 13, 2017. On Nov. 13, 2017, FNS approved USVI's request to extend the hot foods' waiver request through December 29, 2017.
- FNS approved the U.S. Virgin Islands' Department of Human Services' request to extend certification periods and waive periodic reporting requirements for 6 months for ongoing SNAP households due to the severe damage from Hurricane Irma.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- On December 22, 2017, FNS approved a request from the USVI to continue to substitute certain WIC food items, through February 28, 2018.
- On October 6, FNS approved USVI's request for additional WIC flexibilities in response to disaster conditions following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The flexibilities allowed substitutions for juice, fluid milk, bread, baby foods, cheese, and yogurt when the food items were not in stock due to the impact of the storms on inventory in stores. Approval was also granted on USVI's request to extend the time period to transact September food benefits through October 31, 2017.
- On Sept. 17, FNS approved USVI’s request to implement WIC food substitutions through Dec. 31, 2017, only when approved food items are not in stock due to the impact of Hurricane Irma on inventory in the store. Specifically:
- Juice - Participants will be allowed to substitute 12, 16, and 46 ounce containers of juice, when the prescribed size is not available. Participants must still select 100% fruit or vegetable juice that meets federal standards.
- Fluid Milk - Participants will be allowed to substitute milk of any available fat content despite the designation of their food package. This would equate to the addition of 2% and removal of any age-related restrictions on milk. Virgin Islands WIC will also lift the restriction on flavored milk and organic.
- Bread - Participants will be allowed to substitute “any brand” of 16 ounce bread labeled “100% Whole Wheat” or "Whole Grain"." Participants will also be allowed to substitute 20 or 24 ounce size bread including white bread, and honey bread. Participants will be allowed to substitute white bread, buns or rolls, only if the participant’s prescribed whole grain food item is not available.
- Fruits and Vegetables - Participants will be allowed to purchase canned fruits and vegetables, as well as dried fruits, with their Cash Value Voucher.
- Canned Beans for Dried Beans - Participants will be allowed to purchase baked beans as well as any type of canned bean that does not have added sugars, fats, oils, vegetables, fruits or meat.
- Baby Foods - Participants will be allowed to purchase combinations of single fruit or vegetable ingredients (e.g., apple-banana, peas and carrots, or apples and squash). However, any other types of mixtures such as infant food desserts (e.g., peach cobbler) or dinners (e.g., spaghetti and meatballs) may not be substituted as they are not consistent with the foods provided by the program.
- Cheese in Food Package VII - Fully breastfeeding women in Food Package VII may be permitted to substitute an extra pound of cheese for 3 quarts of UHT or dry or evaporated milk.
- Eggs - Participants may receive 64 ounces of canned beans or 18 ounces of peanut butter or 15 ounces of canned fish as a substitute for one dozen eggs.
- Yogurt - Participants will be allowed to substitute one quart of yogurt in exchange for one quart of milk. A maximum of one quart may be substituted.
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