The USDA on Sept. 16 approved a waiver that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants in North Carolina to buy hot foods with their benefits through Oct. 31.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue emphasized the importance of the waiver, noting that many North Carolina residents who evacuated to shelters cannot store food and are lacking access to cooking facilities as a result.
“As the state of North Carolina works to recover from this storm, USDA stands ready to provide common-sense flexibilities to help them meet the needs of their citizens,” Perdue said.
Under normal circumstances, Perdue explained, hot foods and foods ready for immediate consumption cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits. Hot foods include items sold at authorized SNAP retailers that are hot at the point of sale. The waiver addresses the inability of those SNAP participants affected by the disaster to prepare food at home. SNAP authorized retailers may need 24-36 hours to be ready to accept SNAP benefits for hot foods due to programming changes that may be required at their stores.
“Our Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) employees work with state and local officials to identify the needs of people impacted by a natural disaster,” Perdue said. “Allowing the purchase of hot foods with SNAP is one of many programs for storm victims that were triggered after President Trump declared a disaster for North Carolina.”
USDA also approved a waiver on Sept. 16 to allow extended time for SNAP participants to submit claims for food lost in the disaster. Affected households in North Carolina now have until Oct. 15 to report food losses and request replacement benefits so they can purchase food to make up for what was lost in the storm.
FNS says it is ready to consider additional waivers and other actions that may be needed to help program participants who have lost food due to the disaster and to simplify the application process for affected households, upon request from the state.
Update, Sept. 21, 8:25 a.m.:
The USDA has now also approved a waiver for South Carolina residents to replace food purchased with SNAP benefits that was lost due to power outages and flooding caused by Hurricane Florence. More than 185,000 impacted households in 26 counties now have until Oct. 15 to report food loss to the state and request replacement benefits.
“When this many people are facing immediate hardship in South Carolina, it’s crucial for USDA and the state to offer as much flexibility as possible to recover food losses,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “This waiver will provide sufficient reporting time for households who are facing power outages, flooding, and other obstacles in the wake of this disaster.”
The waiver applies to the following counties: Berkeley, Beaufort, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, Williamsburg and York.