Get Food Stamps After a Natural Disaster

May 7th 2016

People who take part in food stamp programs are often so busy trying to make ends meet, they do not have the time and, in some cases, the resources to create emergency funds for natural disasters. If they lose their food supply due to a flood, earthquake, hurricane or other natural disaster, they're often unable to afford to re-stock their supplies. However, there are resources available to help in such cases.

There are many ways the federal government and each of the states give people food aid when a natural disaster strikes. The backbone of food assistance programs related to natural disasters is the D-SNAP program, which is a rapid emergency enrollment in the SNAP program for people who do not normally qualify.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Disaster SNAP  

If the federal government declares a disaster, the state's Department of Agriculture (USDA) can give emergency replacement of food stamps to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients or immediately enroll certain victims in the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to the people residing in the disaster area.

If the President has not declared a federal disaster, but certain conditions are met, special rules and regulations allow the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to give Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards (EBT cards) to people who do not qualify under normal circumstances. These are the four special circumstances:

  • A local disaster such as a flood, hurricane or fire victimized citizens.
  • The disaster destroyed or closed food stores or made it impossible for stores to replenish stocks.
  • Disaster victims need food for a short period.
  • Stores are again selling food.

 The USDA can waive normal processes to speed up issuing food EBT cards. EBT cards have an amount of money electronically stored on them that people use for purchasing food. How much a person or family qualifies for depends on income and family size.

How to Get Disaster Benefits

If you are already a SNAP recipient and are in a federal or local disaster area, you will automatically get a disaster allocation added to your card. Receiving D-SNAP help is not automatic. You must qualify for help and meet the following conditions:

  •  You must live in the disaster area.
  •  You must buy or plan to buy food during the benefit period.
  •  You must have experienced an adverse effect related to the disaster.

What is a Disaster-Related Adverse Effect?

There are three categories of adverse effects:

  • Inaccessible or lost earnings – income that has ended, been reduced or delayed during the 30-day benefit period because of the disaster.
  • Inaccessible liquid resources – cash and other liquid resources that you cannot use, such as bank deposits, during the benefit period.
  • Deductible disaster-related expenses – expenses paid for, not just incurred, out-of-pocket by a household for which reimbursement is not anticipated during the benefit period. Keep receipts for these expenses. Damage to your home or place of self-employment or destruction of either or both can be part of these expenses.

How to Apply

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The responsibility for distributing D-SNAP aid rests with your state agency that handles the state Food Stamp Program. In times of emergency, that agency should have staff in the disaster area once it is safe. Contact the field office in the area for D-SNAP help. USDA offices, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offices and other federal agencies and victim advocacy programs are usually available to help as well.

Your state agency charged with food stamp program responsibility has a disaster plan for emergency D-SNAP registration and a plan for informing the public about how to get access to the program. Listen to the news, relief workers, or your neighbors for further information on enrolling for emergency food aid.

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