WASHINGTON, September 14, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that low-income Hawaii residents recovering from the devastating wildfires beginning August 8, 2023, could be eligible for assistance from the USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that approximately 16,000 households that may not normally be eligible under regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, rules may qualify for D-SNAP if they meet certain criteria.
“USDA is committed to making sure that those recovering from the devastating Hawaii wildfires get the vital food assistance they need,” Vilsack said. “Helping victims of the wildfires is a top priority for President Biden, and we will continue working to expedite access to USDA’s nutrition assistance programs because we recognize that the crisis doesn’t end when the smoke clears. For many families, it may be just beginning.”
To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must either live or work in an identified disaster area, be 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 temporary food needs. Hawaii will operate its D-SNAP in two phases:
- Maui Island will accept applications at the designated site location for six consecutive days, beginning September 18, 2023, through September 23, 2023.
- Honolulu County, Kauai County, Hawaii County, and other sites in Maui County will accept applications at the designated site locations for five consecutive days, beginning September 18, 2023, through September 22, 2023.
The timing of D-SNAP varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but it 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 Hawaii to automatically issue supplemental SNAP benefits to current SNAP households in the 96761, 96767 and 96790 zip codes up to the maximum amount for their household size if they don’t already receive that amount.
This announcement today is the latest in a series of FNS actions taken to help Hawaii residents cope with the wildfires and their aftermath, which also 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 14, 2023.
- Approving a mass replacements waiver to SNAP participants in Maui County, allowing households to receive replacement of benefits lost due to power outages as a result of the wildfires.
- 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 following seven zip codes in Maui County and Hawaii County: 96743, 96753, 96755, 96761, 96768, 96788 and 96790.
- Approving two waivers for flexibility with the maximum monthly allowance requirements for WIC participants. The waivers allow for substitution of non-contract infant formula brands and portion sizes of eggs, tofu, whole wheat/whole grain bread, juice and breakfast cereal.
- Approving a waiver that extends the certification periods and waives the periodic reporting requirements for current SNAP households in Hawaii for up to six months due to the impact of the wildfires.
Other USDA agencies have also been coordinating across the Department and across the federal government to support recovery efforts in Hawaii, such as by:
- Deploying a Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to conduct an analysis for the private, county, and state-managed lands within the fire perimeters. Field work has been completed and a report submitted which recommends mitigation and recovery measures for affected communities.
- Implementing emergency assistance and additional flexibilities for recipients of Rural Housing Service and Farm Service Agency programs to help ensure shelter for those displaced and tools for farmers and ranchers with damage to their operations. Additional USDA disaster assistance information, including a Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, can be found at Farmers.gov.
Additionally, USDA granted Hawaii 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 senior high school 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.
USDA has also remained in close contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is standing by for requests for assistance from the state and local authorities, to provide emergency nutrition assistance to people in need.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.
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