Location:
DISASTERS; FOOD STAMPS;

OLR Research Report


December 15, 2011

 

2011-R-0467

BACKGROUNDER: SNAP DISASTER ASSISTANCE FOLLOWING MAJOR STORMS

By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst

The following is an explanation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits available in Connecticut after Tropical Storm Irene and Winter Storm Alfred. This includes the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), which the Department of Social Services (DSS) administers in Connecticut. The report contrasts D-SNAP with the disaster-related benefits provided to state residents already receiving regular SNAP benefits.

TROPICAL STORM IRENE AND WINTER STORM ALFRED-RELATED SNAP

The federal government, through DSS, provided three different disaster benefits this fall related to food and other non-reimbursable losses resulting from Tropical Storm Irene and Winter Storm Alfred. Following Irene, DSS administered (1) across-the-board and individual assistance to current SNAP recipients and (2) D-SNAP benefits to individuals who were not eligible for or receiving SNAP at the time. Following Winter Storm Alfred, DSS provided current SNAP recipients with replacement benefits.

Irene-Related Assistance

Current SNAP Enrollees. After Tropical Storm Irene struck, DSS began administering an across-the-board replacement benefit to anyone enrolled in the SNAP program on August 28, 2011 (the date Irene hit the state). This replacement benefit equaled 25% of the SNAP benefit paid in August to the SNAP household. Clients did not have to apply for that benefit; the federal government automatically awarded the money, which was added to SNAP clients' electronic benefit transfer (EBT) accounts. (SNAP benefits can be used only to purchase certain food items.) SNAP clients could also apply for supplemental assistance if the value of their spoiled food items was more than 25% of their household's August SNAP benefit. The replacement benefits and supplemental assistance combined could not exceed the amount of SNAP the household received in August 2011.

Households had to follow a two-step application process to receive the supplemental assistance. This included (1) reporting the loss to the 211-Infoline by September 19, 2011 and (2) filling out a SNAP replacement form within 10 days of reporting the loss.

Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). The second Irene-related benefit was the D-SNAP, which the federal government awarded to the state for the first time. DSS workers distributed these benefits in the form of a SNAP EBT debit card to individuals and families who experienced losses related to Irene. As with regular SNAP benefits, the D-SNAP benefit could be used only to purchase food items, even if the loss was for something other than food. To qualify, an applicant had to fill out and sign a two-page form (attached) attesting to having storm-related losses.

An applicant had to show that his or her household's combined anticipated monthly income and available assets, minus eligible disaster-related expenses for the period between August 27 and September 25, did not exceed certain thresholds. (In lieu of having to itemize the losses, DSS received permission from the USDA to apply a standard deduction (Disaster Standard Expense Deduction), which was reflected in the thresholds.) The amount of the benefit was based solely on the size of the household. Table 1 shows these thresholds and benefits.

Table 1: D-SNAP Financial Eligibility and One-Time Benefit Levels for Connecticut Residents

Household Size

Disaster Gross Monthly Combined Income and Asset Limit

(includes expense deduction)

Benefit Awarded

1

$2,186

$200

2

2,847

367

3

3,272

526

4

3,859

668

5

4,254

793

6

4,753

952

7

5,116

1,052

8

5,479

1,202

Source: DSS and USDA

An applicant also had to meet certain nonfinancial criteria, all of which was indicated on the application. These included:

1. having lived or worked in the disaster area at the time Irene hit;

2. planning on purchasing food during the benefit period; and

3. having experienced at least one of the following adverse effects:

a. food damaged by a disaster event or spoiled due to a power outage;

b. damage to or destruction of the household's home or self-employment business;

c. disaster-related expenses not expected to be reimbursed during the benefit period (e.g., home or business repairs, temporary shelter expenses, evacuation expenses); or

d. lost or inaccessible income or inaccessible liquid resource (e.g., bank closed during disaster).

Winter Storm Alfred Replacement SNAP for Current Recipients

As it did for Tropical Storm Irene, the federal government approved an across-the-board food replacement benefit for individuals already receiving SNAP benefits when Winter Storm Alfred caused major power outages resulting in food spoilage. The benefit was 15% of a household's October 2011 SNAP allotment. The federal government also approved a supplemental replacement amount for individuals who lost more than 15% of their October SNAP benefit.

According to DSS, no D-SNAP was available after this storm because the federal government did not declare a major federal disaster that included individual assistance.

Attachment 1