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USDA eases program rules to aid Florida, other Irma-stricken areas

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlined steps Tuesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken to help the people of Florida, other states, and U.S. territories ravaged by Hurricane Irma.

“USDA stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans struggling in the path of devastation created by this historic storm,” Perdue said. “Working with our state and private-sector partners, we are actively taking measures to ensure that people in these areas get the food they need.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently approved a temporary waiver. It also supported other actions helping households participating in the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Florida, Georgia and the Virgin Islands along with the Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico.

The department allowed SNAP participants in Florida to buy hot foods and hot ready-to-eat foods with their benefits through Sept. 30.

They support Florida’s plan to issue all September SNAP benefits on Sept. 7 and Georgia’s plan to issue all remaining benefits for September on Sept. 10; both actions will ensure families have access to their monthly benefits sooner during this time of immediate crisis.

USDA also agrees with Puerto Rico’s action to issue all September Nutrition Assistance Program benefits on Sept. 5, before the storm.

FNS is working closely with the affected states and territories to be ready, if appropriate, to make use of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) to offer continuing food assistance after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to prepare food at home.