Some good news on the Hurricane Harvey recovery front arrives in a Dallas Morning News report. Texas will no longer require applicants for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to fill out forms in their home county if they have lost property in the storm.
The reversal in policy makes sense, as thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Via reporter Bob Garrett:
State social services officials are dropping their requirement that Hurricane Harvey victims return to their home counties to apply for federally provided disaster food relief.
On Friday, social services czar Charles Smith announced Texas will give people affected by the storm greater flexibility to apply in counties that are not their counties of residence.
"We're trying to help people where they are," said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which administers federally provided food stamps. "If we see an issue, we're going to fix it. Getting people the food they need is the most important thing we're doing right now."
Also on Friday, Smith added seven counties to the 11 where the "D-SNAP" program launched Wednesday. D-SNAP stands for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The seven included some heavily populated counties, such as Brazoria near Houston, and Nueces, home to Corpus Christi. The commission will start taking applications from victims from the seven counties Monday and Tuesday. People will have a week to apply. Their days to apply will be staggered, based on the first letter of their last names.
Officials, however, have postponed rollout in Harris (Houston), Jefferson (Beaumont) and Victoria counties as they refine their enrollment procedures, identify "mega-sites" with local officials, shift large numbers of staff from other counties, and wait for floodwaters to recede further.
"If families have been displaced from one of the 18 counties receiving D-SNAP and cannot travel back to their home county, they can go to any local [Health and Human Services] benefits office across the state to apply for D-SNAP during the dates designated for their counties," the commission said in a release.
As with the regular food stamp program, people can receive a Lone Star Card to use while buying groceries. Because of devastation caused by Harvey, state officials are allowing regular SNAP beneficiaries in the affected areas to buy hot meals as well as groceries through Sept. 30.