As Florida continues its recovery efforts following Hurricane Ian — one of the most devastating storms in the state’s history — government officials have issued guidelines on help that is available to Florida residents who get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), which administers the federal program, said in an Oct. 3 notice that food replacement benefits are available to SNAP recipients who suffered food losses related to Hurricane Ian. The department received approval to issue mass replacements of SNAP benefits for households that did not receive an early release of October payments that were sent out in late September, ahead of the storm.
Replacement benefits were automatically loaded onto SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards earlier this week in the following impacted counties: Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, and Volusia. As of Oct. 5, the DCF was still awaiting approval for Osceola and St. John’s counties.
Florida households that normally would have received SNAP benefits from Oct.1-14, 2022, received those benefits on Sept. 27 to help with storm preparation. The DCF said it cannot process a mass replacement of benefits for these households, per federal guidelines.
“However, if replacement benefits are needed for food items that were lost during the storm for those in the impacted counties listed above, recipients can apply online,” the DCF notice said.
The DCF provided an early release of more than $235 million in SNAP payments to about 773,500 households who were at risk of being impacted by Hurricane Ian, meaning that 1.4 million individuals got their benefits before the storm hit so they could prepare their food supplies.
The DCF also received approval for SNAP benefits to be used to purchase hot meals — something SNAP recipients in Florida can’t usually do because it is not among the states that operate a Restaurant Meals Program through SNAP.
Meanwhile, the Florida DCF said it has requested approval for disaster-SNAP benefits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP. D-SNAP is designed to help families who suffered losses or damage during a natural disaster by providing nutrition assistance.
The application, when approved, provides a streamlined process for non-SNAP recipients to receive SNAP benefits. In addition, DCF has requested approval for existing SNAP participants to receive the maximum benefit for their household size. Once granted, existing SNAP participants will receive the difference between their normal monthly benefit amount and the maximum amount allowable. As of Oct. 5, both requests are awaiting approval from the USDA.
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