D-SNAP Provides Food in Time of Disaster

By Victoria Palacio

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  Houston and the Texas coast are still experiencing severe flooding, with more rain expected in the coming days in both Texas and Louisiana. We commend the rescue teams, community organizations, faith community, non-profits, and everyday heroes who have come to the aid of those affected by the hurricane. The federal government is playing an important role, as well, including through a little-known program operated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).

Many people will be unable to return to their homes for weeks, or even months.  Even those who are not displaced may have lost many of their belongings, including the food in their refrigerators if they have gone without power. Low-wage workers who have been unable to get to work will, in most cases, not be paid. In catastrophes like these, people need additional assistance as they get back on their feet. Texas has requested approval from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to operate D-SNAP to provide food to people harmed by Harvey. People in areas affected by a disaster who have expenses related to income loss, evacuation, injury or death, clean-up, or repair can qualify for D-SNAP and begin receiving benefits within 72 hours, thanks to a streamlined application process. Although D-SNAP has an income requirement, it is based on “disaster gross income,” which enables it to assist people who typically wouldn’t qualify for SNAP.

Beyond D-SNAP, Texans currently receiving nutritional assistance through SNAP have been given the flexibility to use their benefits to purchase hot foods and ready-to-eat foods, such as items sold in a grocery store deli, which typically aren’t permitted. Additionally, current SNAP clients who experienced losses due to a disaster can have their benefit increased to the monthly maximum amount for their household size.

In recent years, D-SNAP has provided aid in Louisiana, South Carolina, and California for people experiencing devastation caused by flooding and wildfires. When calamities occur, every bit of additional assistance helps. Thankfully, the flexibility of D-SNAP helps put food on the table during times of disaster for those in need.