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USDA Announces Approval of D-SNAP for Florida Disaster Areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that low-income Florida residents in 11 counties (Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Suwanee, and Taylor) recovering from Hurricane Idalia beginning August 30, 2023, could be eligible for a helping hand from the USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that approximately 233,000 households that may not normally be eligible under regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules may qualify for D-SNAP – if they meet certain criteria, including the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses.

“The D-SNAP waiver USDA approved for Florida will ensure that people participating in SNAP can get the food they need as they get back on their feet in the wake of Hurricane Idalia,” Vilsack said.

To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must either live or work in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Eligible households will receive one month of benefits – equal to the maximum monthly amount for a SNAP household of their size – that they can use to purchase groceries at SNAP-authorized stores or from select retailers online to meet their temporary food needs as they settle back home following the disaster. Florida will operate its staggered D-SNAP application process from September 22, 2023, through October 14, 2023. Florida will share additional information about D-SNAP application dates and locations through local media.

The timing of D-SNAP varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP, a state must ensure that the proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place.

Although current SNAP households are not eligible for D-SNAP, USDA has also approved Florida to automatically issue supplemental SNAP benefits to current SNAP households in the 11 identified areas to bring their allotment up to the maximum amount for their household size if they don’t already receive that amount.

The D-SNAP announcement today is the latest in a battery of USDA actions taken to help Florida residents cope with Hurricane Idalia and its aftermath, some of which include:

  • Approving a waiver to allow SNAP participants to buy hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption with their benefits at authorized SNAP retailers statewide through October 1, 2023.
  • Approving a waiver for the 10-day reporting requirement for food purchased with SNAP benefits that was lost as a result of power outages in the counties of Dixie, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties through Sept. 19, 2023.
  • Approving a mass replacements waiver to SNAP participants in 14 counties: Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Pasco, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla, allowing households to receive replacement of benefits lost due to power outages as a result of the wildfires.

Additionally, USDA granted Florida several flexibilities in the operation of the Child Nutrition Programs including:

  • Non-congregate meal service: waives the requirements to serve Child Nutrition Program meals in a congregate setting.
  • Parent and guardian meal pick-up: waives the requirement that Child Nutrition Program meals may only be served directly to children.
  • Meal service times: waives the requirements setting meal time parameters for Child Nutrition Program meals.
  • Service of meals at school sites during unanticipated school closures: waives the requirement that limits the operation of the Summer Food Service Program during an unanticipated school closure to non-school sites. USDA also extends the service of meals at school sites during unanticipated school closures flexibility to operate Seamless Summer Options, or SSO, for the duration of this waiver.
  • Offer Versus Serve (National School Lunch Program): waives the requirement to serve school lunches to students using Offer Versus Serve. USDA also extends the Offer Versus Serve flexibility to SSO for the duration of this waiver, when there is an unanticipated school closure during the school year.
  • Meal Pattern Exception: temporarily allows school meals and afterschool snacks that do not meet the meal pattern requirements.
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