Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits approved in southwest Georgia

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave word this morning that citizens in 20 Georgia counties who may not normally qualify for food stamps now may temporarily qualify for disaster supplemental nutrition assistance. (Special Graphic)

WASHINGTON — As part of the continuing effort to provide relief from the effects of Hurricane Michael, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that households in 20 Georgia counties that may not normally be eligible for nutrition assistance under regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rules may temporarily qualify for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

This means that D-SNAP program has been given the green light in Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Crisp, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Laurens, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Randolph, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Turner and Worth counties.

In some counties, this benefit may begin as early as Wednesday.

“Hurricane Michael cut across a large swath of rural America and disrupted the lives of thousands of families,” USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps said. “This assistance will help residents in parts of southern Georgia that were badly harmed get back on their feet.”

A news release issued by officials in Dougherty County said the county’s citizens would be able to gain full access to D-SNAP starting Wednesday and continuing through Nov. 14.

“This announcement will allow us to provide food and hope to the countless working families and elderly who have lost their entire food supplies,” Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Christopher Cohilas said in a statement. “Thank you to Gov. Nathan Deal, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, our congressional delegation and DFCS for tirelessly working with us to help provide for the basic needs of our citizens.”

USDA officials said households may be eligible if they have qualifying disaster-related expenses and meet D-SNAP income limits. Officials with the USDA said the timing and conditions of D-SNAP vary with the circumstances of each disaster, but the program always begins as a result of a request from the state after access to retailers has been restored and families are able to purchase food to prepare at home.

Before operating D-SNAP in an approved county, the state must ensure that conditions related to safety and readiness are in place.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services said the state has not implemented a D-SNAP program since Hurricane Irene in 2011. The program extends aid to low-income families that have incurred expenses or suffered losses to income or property because of a natural disaster.

The division estimates about 50,000 families may be eligible for D-SNAP assistance following Hurricane Michael.

“We know families continue to struggle to rebuild their lives after this historic storm, and we want to be sure that while families are focusing on rebuilding their communities, they do not have to worry where their next meal will come from,” DFCS Interim Director Tom Rawlings said. “I commend our partners on the local, state and federal level for working quickly and relentlessly to ensure Georgians receive the help they need when they need it.”

DFCS officials said the exception to allow buying ready-to-eat foods will only be available until Nov. 17, when purchases will be limited to foods to be prepared at home.

To qualify for D-SNAP, DFCS said Georgians must meet the following criteria:

— Live or work in one of the 20 counties declared by FEMA for individual assistance;

— Be ineligible and/or not currently receiving food assistance through the regular SNAP program;

— Have suffered a disaster-related loss to property or income, including incurring expenses related to the disaster;

— Provide photo identification and proof of residency for the head of household;

— Meet financial eligibility requirements.

Eligibility for the program requires a face-to-face interview. Clients must apply in-person at a designated D-SNAP site or send an authorized representative. Current SNAP recipients should not apply for D-SNAP assistance, as recipients who are eligible for D-SNAP will automatically receive a supplement on their food stamp cards on or before Friday

The D-SNAP application period will be Nov. 7-14 for residents of Dougherty as well as Baker, Crisp, Decatur, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Worth counties. The application period will be Thursday through Nov. 15 for residents of Lee and Thomas counties. The application period will be Nov. 15-19 for residents of Calhoun, Clay, Laurens, Randolph, Sumter, Tift and Turner counties.

No applications will be taken on Monday due to the Veteran’s Day holiday. DFCS said it may extend application periods, depending on the demand for assistance.

To find D-SNAP locations and operating hours or for more information on the program, visit www.dfcs.georgia.gov or call 1-833-DSNAP-GA (833-376-2742)

Officials with USDA said that if a household in the affected area qualifies for D-SNAP, it could receive one month of benefits to meet their food needs as they settle back into their home following the disaster. Affected households should look for public information notices from the state regarding the application process, location of application sites and dates of application in each county.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services has also approved streamlined child nutrition program administration for schools in 13 hurricane-affected Georgia counties by allowing meals that vary from menu planning and meal pattern requirements. Those counties include Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller, Seminole, Calhoun, Clay, Laurens, Randolph, Sumter, Tift and Turner.

To find D-SNAP locations and operating hours or for more information on the program, visit www.dfcs.georgia.gov or call 1-833-DSNAP-GA (833-376-2742)

Stay Informed