On Friday, Nov. 9, Gov. Chris Christie announced federal waivers had been approved that would make food assistance available to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The newly expanded program was dubbed Disaster SNAP or D-SNAP. State officials said the replacement SNAP and prepared food benefits are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services through New Jersey’s Department of Human Services’ Division of Family Development and the state’s county welfare agencies.
“Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented destruction and devastation throughout New Jersey,” said DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “Many families still have no power, making it nearly impossible for them to store perishable items or cook food. These are families already at great risk for hunger. The replacement and prepared food benefit will enable SNAP recipients in counties hardest hit by the hurricane to restock their refrigerator if they have power, or purchase ready-to-eat meals.”
Velez went on to say that at the time the replacement SNAP benefit was for current recipients, only. It reimbursed 25 percent of their October monthly SNAP allotment, allowing them to replace a portion of the food they may have lost during the power outage.
“We know that millions of people throughout the state were without power and, as a result, lost perishable food supplies, but D-SNAP is a federal safety-net subsidy available only to people who are at risk for hunger because their disaster-recovery expenses have left them without enough money to buy food,” Velez said.
“Application rules and eligibility for D-SNAP have been modified, based on lessons learned after Tropical Storm Irene in September 2011. Misinformation about the program caused long lines at designated application sites and created a potential for fraudulent activity. This year, strict criteria must be met in order for people to qualify.”
The SNAP recipients in 16 counties that experienced a loss of power for at least 50 percent of their population were scheduled to receive the replacement automatically within “the next few weeks” on their EBT cards. Velez said the recipients did not need to call or visit their County Welfare Agency in order to obtain the expanded benefits.
Those counties are: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren. The prepared food waiver also allows these SNAP members — for a limited time — to purchase hot and cold prepared meals from participating stores with their benefits, an exception to the SNAP rules.
Individuals and families on SNAP from the counties of Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salemalso are eligible for the replacement benefit, but must go to their county welfare office to apply. They are not eligible for the hot food benefit.
“The county-specific information compiled from all of the CWAs, we will be posting it at www.njsnap.org,” said Lauren Shears, an Essex County Public Information Officer on Nov. 26. “Please share this information with your constituents. Residents can go to any location — they are not limited to their specific municipal locations.”
Current SNAP recipients from the 16 counties listed should not apply for this program because they already received a 30 percent October replacement allocation on their EBT card and will receive a supplemental benefit by Friday, Dec. 7. Residents of Camden, Gloucester and Salem— counties that were not as affected by Hurricane Sandy — are not eligible for D-SNAP at this time.
Applicants from the designated areas must go to the D-SNAP location in their own county. However, displaced residents can apply in the county where they are currently staying. Residents are strongly encouraged to take note of the required criteria in order to ensure eligibility. For a list of sites, visit www.njsnap.org.
According to the new rules, Velez said applicants in the designated counties or ZIP codes must provide: Identification and proof of residency — a driver’s license, for example, would serve as both; pay stubs and bank statements, i.e. cash, checking and savings, for the 30 days from Sunday, Oct. 28, through Monday, Nov. 26; and receipts that show more than $100 spent on disaster-related expenses between Oct. 28 and Nov. 26.
The cost of replacing food cannot be included in the $100, but restaurant expenses are allowed. Related expenses may include: temporary shelter in a motel; home/business repairs; evacuation expenses; disaster clean up; disaster related vehicle repairs; gasoline for a generator; and replacement of personal items, such as clothing or household items, i.e. appliances, tools and educational materials.
If any of the purchases were charged to a credit card, the resident must be able to document that they paid the credit card bill for these items by Monday, Nov. 26. According to the guidelines, for a family of one, the income limit is $2,268 with a benefit of $200; a family of two is $2,965 limit with a $367 benefit; a family of three is $3,416 limit with a $526 benefit; and, a family of four is $4,034 limit with a $668 benefit.