The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) is an important tool to help Floridians put food on the table after a wide-scale disaster. The program provides grocery assistance to people not normally eligible for SNAP benefits who have unexpected expenses due to a disaster.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has obtained permission from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer D-SNAP in many of the counties impacted by Hurricane Ian in Florida. Although households must both pre-register for D-SNAP and have an interview within designated periods of time to establish eligibility, complete plans have not yet been announced on exactly how Florida will roll out D-SNAP in every county subject to the program.
Because each county is assigned its own period of time in which pre-registration and interviews must take place, people are encouraged to frequently check DCF’s website for the latest information on relevant D-SNAP dates in their specific counties to avoid missing deadlines for applying for D-SNAP. The window of opportunity to pre-register and be interviewed for D-SNAP is small and households will be unable to establish eligibility for the program if they miss designated deadlines.
What is D-SNAP?
D-SNAP is a program that provides households who do not get regular SNAP with assistance to buy groceries after a wide-scale disaster, like Hurricane Ian. In hard hit areas where businesses and homes have been damaged or destroyed, D-SNAP gives people who otherwise would be without means to buy food one less thing to worry about on their road to recovery.
What counties were approved for D-SNAP?
DCF has been approved by FNS to administer D-SNAP for people in the following counties:
- St. Johns
Why do some counties have D-SNAP and some do not?
D-SNAP is intended for situations in which a large number of people in a specific geographical area (like a neighborhood, county, or zip code) have significant disaster-related expenses yet are not eligible for regular SNAP. Normally, power must be out for at least four hours or more for the majority of people in the area to justify a D-SNAP program. In addition, three other things must happen for D-SNAP to be activated:
- The President must issue a declaration of a major disaster that includes Individual Assistance for the counties in which D-SNAP is provided;
- Grocery stores must be open so that there is a place for people to use their benefits; and
- DCF must get permission (called a “waiver”) to provide FNS.
How do households qualify for D-SNAP?
Applicants for D-SNAP must be adversely affected by the disaster in one of the following ways:
- They are losing or have lost income;
- They are unable to access money that they have in checking or savings because banks are closed, ATMs are down, and online banking is inaccessible; or
- They have a disaster-related expense.
Examples of disaster-related expenses for D-SNAP purposes include costs for:
- Damage to the household’s home or business
- Lost or spoiled food, even if that is a household’s only disaster expense
- Propane or gas that a household needs when the electricity goes out
- Tools and other expenses for boarding up the home
- Medical expenses due to the disaster
- Boarding a pet during the hurricane
- Replacing appliances, clothing, and vehicles destroyed in the storm
- Cleaning up the house or yard afterwards
Although DCF may help applicants determine their disaster-related expenses during their interview, it is a good idea to encourage households to have a comprehensive list of all their losses before they apply so that they remember to include all of their costs associated with Ian.
How many Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian may be eligible for D-SNAP?
Roughly 743,000 new households will likely be eligible for D-SNAP and be provided a total of about $513 million in food assistance.
How do households apply for D-SNAP?
As described more fully below, applying for D-SNAP is a 2-part process: 1) pre-registering, and 2) being interviewed. To pre-register for D-SNAP, households must fill out a D-SNAP application form either online on days in which preregistration is open for their county or in-person at a D-SNAP site in the county in which they live or work. After pre-registration, households will also be required to have an interview either by telephone within a specific time period based on the first letter of their last name or at an in-person D-SNAP location in the county where they live or work.
Because the D-SNAP roll-out process is fluid and date-specific, people interested are cautioned to regularly check DCF’s web site for updates.
The first step in applying for D-SNAP is to “pre-register”. To pre-register, households are required to fill out an application form about themselves and household members, including information about income, assets, and how the household was impacted by the disaster.
In each county, pre-registration was or will be open for a 7-day period from Monday at 1:00 a.m. until Sunday at 11:00 p.m. beginning on the date that the program is designated to begin. The dates that households can pre-register for Ian D-SNAP differ by the county in which the household lives or works.
While DCF urges households to pre-register online, DCF also has opened or will be opening on-site D-SNAP locations in each county for 3 days to serve households who are unable to pre-register by computer. Check DCF’s web site for addresses of local on-site D-SNAP locations.
In addition to being able to pre-register in person at an on-site D-SNAP locations, people who missed their online pre-registration deadline can still pre-register online during their county’s on-site dates.
After completing pre-registration, all households must have an interview. FNS says that only merit staff (i.e., state agency personnel employed in accordance with certain standards for a merit system) are allowed to conduct D-SNAP interviews, screen for duplicate participation, or determine eligibility for D-SNAP. Although interviews will be done by phone based on the applicant’s county and the first letter of their last name, applicants can also be interviewed at one of DCF’s on-site D-SNAP locations in the county in which they live or work. On-site locations have been or will be open in each county for 3 days to serve households who are unable to be interviewed by phone. Except for Hardee and Polk counties, DCF has not yet announced the location or date(s) for its on-site D-SNAP locations
Roll-out details for specific counties
Online pre-registration opened first in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Sarasota, and Polk counties from Monday, October 10 through Sunday, October 16 . After pre-registration, applicants were required to call to have a telephone interview on either October 13, 14, or 15, depending on the first letter of the applicant’s last name. There was a “last chance call” day on October 16 during which anyone who may have missed their appointed time could have called and been interviewed. In addition, except for in Hardee and Polk, people residing or working in one of these counties who missed their designated pre-registration or interview will be allowed to pre-register online during their county's on-site dates, go in-person to pre-register, and/or have an in-person interview during their county's on-site dates.
On-site D-SNAP locations were open in Charlotte and Sarasota counties from November 13 - 15. In Collier county, an on-site D-SNAP location was open November 6, 7, and 9. In Hardee and Polk counties, where on-site D-SNAP locations were open from October 21 to October 23, Floridians should have already completed their D-SNAP pre-registration and interviews. DCF’s website will have updates on the dates and addresses of local on-site D-SNAP locations in other counties as soon as those locations are announced.
In Flagler, Highlands, Manatee, Orange, Pinellas, and St. Johns counties, online pre-registration was open from Monday, October 17 through Sunday, October 23. Telephone interviews were conducted from October 20 to October 23 depending on the first letter of the applicant’s last name. However, people residing or working in one of these counties who missed their designated pre-registration or interview will be allowed to pre-register online during their county's on-site dates, go in-person to pre-register, and/or have an in-person interview during their county's on-site dates. In Highlands County, an on-site D-SNAP location will be open on Saturday, October 29 through Monday, October 31.
In Highlands county, an on-site D-SNAP location was open from Saturday, October 29 through Monday, October 31, while Pinellas County’s on-site location was open November 3-5. In St. Johns and Flagler counties, on-site D-SNAP locations were open from Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29. For other counties, DCF’s website will have updates on the dates and addresses of other local on-site D-SNAP locations as soon as those locations are finalized.
In Hillsborough, Lake, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, and Volusia counties, online pre-registration was open through Sunday, October 30. Telephone interviews were conducted from October 27 through October 30, depending on the first letter of the applicant’s last name. In addition, people residing or working in one of these counties who miss their designated pre-registration or interview dates will be allowed to pre-register online during their county's on-site dates, go in-person to pre-register, and/or have an in-person interview during their county's D-SNAP on-site dates.
The on-site D-SNAP location for Hillsborough County was open November 17 -18. On-site D-SNAP locations were open in Putnam County on November 13-15; in Osceola county on November 3, 4 and 6; in Volusia County from November 5 - 7; in Pinellas County from November 3 through November 5; and in Seminole County from November 4 through November 6. DCF’s website will have updates on the dates and addresses of local on-site D-SNAP locations in other counties as soon as those locations are announced.
DCF is supposed to provide D-SNAP benefits within 3 days (72 hours) of the date of application, as long as the household has complied with interview and verification requirements. Applicants whose identity or other eligibility factor cannot be adequately verified during their interview will be provided 7 days to submit verification to their local DCF office.
What about people with disabilities who need extra help pre-registering or with the interview process?
If Floridians have a disability that keeps them from travelling to/standing in line at a D-SNAP site or using a phone or computer, DCF should work with them to provide special assistance, called an “accommodation.” Some of the ways that people in these situations can try to contact DCF about an accommodation are by:
- Emailing HQW.Office.Of.Civil.Rights.Information@myflfamilies.com
- Calling 850-487-1901 (DCF’s Office of Civil Rights)
- Contacting DCF’s regional coordinator for disability-related services through this link
- Calling Florida’s D-SNAP call center at 850-663-1919 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (EST)
How is financial eligibility for D-SNAP determined?
In the D-SNAP program, a household’s accessible liquid resources (i.e., cash) plus its expected take-home income during the disaster benefit period minus its unreimbursed disaster-related expenses cannot exceed FNS’ D-SNAP Disaster Gross Income Limit. The income limits for Hurricane Ian D-SNAP fall under new levels that went into effect October 1, 2022. For a household of three, the D-SNAP monthly income limit is $2,737.
In calculating eligibility, only income resources and expenses during the disaster benefit period count. For Ian D-SNAP, the disaster benefits period is September 27, 2022, through October 26, 2022. In addition, only cash that is accessible to the household at the start of the benefit period counts as a resource when determining D-SNAP eligibility, such as cash on hand and money in the bank that the household can get to.
Disaster assistance payments (including disaster unemployment) and money in retirement accounts do not count.
Are D-SNAP applicants required to have a driver’s license or Social Security Number (SSN)?
Households are not required to have any particular document to verify their identity (such as a Social Security Card, driver's license, or a state ID card). However, for people who do have a driver’s license or SSN, DCF says that eligibility can be determined more quickly if an applicant has one of those forms of identification.
People who have do not have (or have lost) all documents of their identity may be able to provide proof of who they are through a collateral contact statement, signed by a friend, neighbor or relative who knows them. When completing the D-SNAP pre-registration form, applicants who intend to use a collateral contact to verify identity should select “Other” as their form of identification, describe it as “collateral contact,” and be prepared to produce a written statement from their contact. Although households will have 7 days to submit their verification of identity, providing this proof at the earliest possible time will expedite the eligibility determination.
Does D-SNAP limit the eligibility of college students and immigrants or impose child support, work requirements, or time limits?
D-SNAP is a different program than regular SNAP and has streamlined eligibility rules. For example, D-SNAP does not look at citizenship status or impose time limits or work requirements, nor does D-SNAP preclude college students from participating or require cooperation with the child support office. In addition, to be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must also reside or work in a disaster-designated area. Anyone who meets the residency and financial requirements of D-SNAP will qualify so long as they plan to buy food during the disaster benefit period (i.e., September 27, 2022, through October 26, 2022).
Children who are college students living away from home at the time of the disaster (i.e., on campus) cannot be included as a member of their parent’s D-SNAP household. However, they can apply separately as their own D-SNAP household if they live or work in one of the D-SNAP-designated counties and otherwise meet D-SNAP eligibility criteria.
Where are in-person D-SNAP sites located?
Check DCF’s website here for the addresses of in-person D-SNAP locations and the dates and times in which they will be open in each affected county. These locations are supposed to be in accessible areas that are passable and safe to travel. In addition, on-site locations are also required to have sufficient security, water, and restroom facilities, as well as provide reasonable accommodations for seniors and people with disabilities.
How many months of D-SNAP will eligible households get?
Eligible households will get one month’s worth of D-SNAP ranging from $281 for a household of one to $939 for a household of four. Bigger households will get proportionally more. Households must use their D-SNAP benefits within 90 days.
How long does it take households to get their D-SNAP benefits?
DCF is supposed to provide D-SNAP benefits within 3 days (72 hours) of the date of application, as long as the household has complied with interview and verification requirements.
What verification will households need to provide to get D-SNAP?
The only mandatory verification that will be required of D-SNAP applicants is the identity of the head of household. (The head of household is an adult living in the household who is selected by the other household members to get D-SNAP for the household. If the household does not have an adult member, DCF may either designate who will be head or let the household decide.) The household will have 7 days to submit their verification of identity.
In addition, DCF may ask households for verification of other facts, such as household composition and food loss, if questionable. Households will have no more than 7 days from the date they submitted their application to verify questionable information other than identity.
How do households use their D-SNAP benefits to get groceries?
D-SNAP benefits are provided to eligible households through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. A household’s D-SNAP allotment is posted to the EBT cardholder’s D-SNAP account. Households use their EBT cards to purchase groceries at participating stores and farmers markets in the same way that they use debit cards. Households can also use their D-SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online at Walmart, Amazon, Aldi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Freshfields Farm, Hitchcock’s Markets, Publix, Mt. Plymouth IGA, and Whole Foods, although D-SNAP cannot be used for delivery fees.
How is “household” defined under D-SNAP?
D-SNAP household members include people living together and purchasing and preparing food together at the time of a disaster. DCF looks at who the applicant was living with on the day that the disaster struck to determine D-SNAP household composition. However, D-SNAP households do not include people who are temporarily staying together due to the disaster or college students living away from home at the time of the disaster.
Can eligible households purchase hot food with D-SNAP benefits?
DCF has obtained permission from FNS to allow all Floridians, not just those affected by Hurricane Ian, to use their regular and D-SNAP benefits to purchase hot food. Normally, SNAP participants are prohibited from using SNAP to purchase hot food, like rotisserie chicken. However, since many households may continue to be without power for weeks after a disaster, FNS usually allows states to temporarily lift the “hot food” restriction state-wide, as they have done with Hurricane Ian.
Where can households go for legal help with D-SNAP problems?
Many legal aid programs in Florida can assist with D-SNAP problems. To locate a program that may be able to help in any specific county, participants should be advised to check here. In addition, the Disaster Legal Services Advice Hotline at 866-550-2929 may also be able to provide legal help with D-SNAP. The hotline is a FEMA-funded free hotline for disaster-related problems for Ian survivors who cannot afford an attorney. Callers will be instructed to say that they are seeking storm-related legal assistance, indicate the county in which they are located, and state their legal problem(s).
Applicants for D-SNAP may also request a D-SNAP fair hearing if they are denied assistance or an accommodation or issued benefits in what they believe is the wrong amount. However, households should be urged to first seek legal help through their local legal aid program or the Disaster Legal Services Advice Hotline, if possible.