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Eblast on Disaster and Misfortune benefits

Just one year ago, thousands of Massachusetts households lost their homes and food due to the June 1, 2011 tornados in Central and Western Massachusetts. This tragedy was then followed by two other severe weather events causing flooding and wide spread power outages over Labor Day weekend and late October 2011. And every day, low income households in Massachusetts suffer individual fires, floods, power outages, utility shutoffs and/or appliance malfunction.

At recent Coalition meetings, members asked about the difference between Disaster SNAP or “D-SNAP” benefits and “Misfortune” SNAP replacement benefits. Many local food pantries, food banks and helping agencies respond to individual food crises as well as widespread emergencies – but may not know that SNAP households can request replacement SNAP benefits from DTA. 

Here's a brief summary of the how SNAP can respond to both large disaster situations and individual/localized “misfortune” food emergencies:

Disaster SNAP Benefits:

When the President has declared a federal disaster as a result of severe weather or other federal emergency, USDA and local state SNAP agencies including DTA work together to provide “D-SNAP benefits.”  D-SNAP are special SNAP benefits to non-SNAP households needing immediate food assistance. The gross income guidelines are higher, and the application rules are different from regular SNAP benefits (only identity needs to be verified in declared disasters). The D-SNAP rules also allow state agencies to provide extra SNAP benefits to SNAP households affected by the disaster, often by automatically putting extra SNAP dollars onto the EBT card.

Here’s a link to the updated 2012 [2014] USDA manual on Disaster SNAP benefits:  https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/D-SNAP_handbook_0.pdf

Here’s a link to general USDA information describing D-SNAP: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/d-snap-resources-state-agencies-and-partners 

FRAC also has excellent materials on Disaster SNAP benefits and what states can do to prepare. http://www.frac.org/hunger-natural-disasters

Misfortune SNAP Replacement Benefits:

The Federal SNAP rules authorize states to provide SNAP replacement benefits to eligible SNAP households who lose food in other situations that may not be from a declared disaster. A SNAP household can lose food due to: 

  • Power outage in neighborhood or community
  • Fire or flood in home or community
  • Malfunction of freezer or refrigerator
  • Shut off of utilities, for any reason - including non-payment.

The state regulations that govern SNAP misfortune benefits are at: 106 CMR 364.900 (C). If a household’s food is destroyed or spoiled, the household can request SNAP funds to replace food that was purchased with the SNAP benefits. Here is a link to a page which includes a MLRI flier created by MLRI’s AmeriCorps member Helene Newberg that explains SNAP replacement benefits including the time frame for reporting, and the DTA form that households should fill out.

NOTE: When there is a widespread power outage in a neighborhood or community, states can also request USDA permission to issue automatic SNAP replacement benefits to all recipients in the affected area.  Massachusetts has done this a number of times due to Nor’Easters, ice storms and other power outages. DTA can also ask for USDA permission to extend the amount of time for households to file a request SNAP replacement benefits. If you work in a community that suffers a widespread power outage, check with DTA to see if they are planning to request a USDA waiver for auto replacement benefits. Local groups can and should advocate with DTA to make such requests where appropriate. Members of Congress can also be helpful in getting USDA to respond quickly.  Let MLRI know if you have questions or need help getting SNAP benefits to families who have suffered food loss.