Submitted by FoodSNAP on 03/22/2012 - 3:59pm.
Questions have surfaced about whether or not SNAP recipients who lost power due to the NSTAR transformer fire last week and resulting power outages are eligible for replacement SNAP benefits. The answer is YES! SNAP recipients who lost food purchased with their SNAP benefits as a result of any power outage (e.g food which spoiled or had to be thrown out as a result of loss of electricity) are eligible to request SNAP replacement benefits. The current process is for a SNAP recipient to fill out a SNAP misfortune replacement request and fax or deliver it to the DTA office. Replacement of SNAP benefits are NOT limited to "natural disasters," nor to any official declaration by the President or Governor of a disaster.
Are there low-income households in the Back Bay area who were affected by the power outage - absolutely! The City of Boston reported on March 20th that many low-income elderly residents and other vulnerable residents ended with loss of food and sought help from homeless shelters as a result of the outage. (See Boston Globe, March 20, 2012) The City of Boston also set up an emergency fund with $10,000 in NSTAR donations to help persons harmed by the outage.
Here's a link to the DTA Misfortune Replacement form in English and Spanish: /content/snap-replacement-benefits-due-natural-disaster-or-household-misfortune-including-power-loss (scroll down to the Other Materials section)
And here's a link to the state regulations and more detailed information on the Misfortune replacement process: /SNAP-Replacement-Benefits-Household-Misfortune
If DTA has any questions about whether or not your client lost power, DTA should be able to confirm the location and duration of the power outage through direct communication through NSTAR or the Department of Public Utilities. The household should not need to get an independent statement from NSTAR unless the information is questionable.
Note that a household has 10 days from the date of the incident triggering food loss to make a SNAP replacement request. This could be any point during the power outage. Since there has been no notification to the misfortune process to the affected SNAP households, it may be possible for DTA to seek an extension of the 10 day time frame for households that miss the 10 day deadline but have a food loss. MLRI will work with DTA to seek an extension if there are SNAP households that surface in your outreach work.
Please advise your clients that NSTAR Customers can also file a claim for property damage as a result of any outage that has lasted 12 hours or longer in a 24 hour period. Go to the following link:
REMEMBER: The Next Boston area Food SNAP Coalition Meeting is Tuesday, March 27th, from 10 to Noon in Boston and the Western Mass Coalition is Thursday, March 29th from 10 to Noon in Hatfield. There will be an opportunity to discuss the policies around SNAP Disaster, SNAP replacement and misfortune benefits at both meetings. Note that Ellen Vollinger of FRAC will be joining both meetings!