For some, SNAP help follows Hurricane Hanna

The federal government has approved help for SNAP recipients following Hurricane Hanna—but help will not come automatically for residents in Cameron County.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has received federal approval to automatically provide replacement benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients for food lost or destroyed due to Hurricane Hanna.

SNAP recipients qualify if they reside in one of these impacted counties: Brooks, Hidalgo, Kenedy, McMullen, Starr and Willacy. Cameron County was not included in the counties approved for automatic aid. Residents here will have to apply, instead.

According to the governor’s office, those six counties met federal criteria for mass replacements of benefits based on the severity of storm impacts in their area.

“As our communities rebuild from the damage caused by Hurricane Hanna, we are working to help ensure that Texans can continue to provide healthy meals for their families,” Abbott said. “I thank our federal partners for quickly approving this request and for their collaboration as we help Texans recover in the aftermath of this storm.”

“For families that have been impacted by this disaster, these replacement benefits will help provide some peace of mind,” said Wayne Salter, Texas HHS Access and Eligibility Services deputy executive commissioner. “Ensuring families have continued access to food is one less stressor for these communities in need.”

SNAP recipients in the six impacted counties do not need to take any action to receive the mass replacement. A percentage of the regular allotment of benefits will be automatically issued to all regular SNAP households in the affected counties and placed on their Lone Star cards by Aug. 4.

SNAP recipients in the 32 impacted eligible counties in Abbott’s disaster declaration can also apply for replacement food benefits for regular SNAP allotments and SNAP emergency allotments provided in response to COVID-19. HHSC also received approval to waive the 10-day reporting requirement so that impacted households will have until Aug. 31, 2020, to report SNAP food loss and request replacement benefits.

Impacted eligible counties in Abbott’s disaster declaration include: Aransas, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Dimmit, Duval, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, La Salle, Live Oak, Matagorda, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Willacy, and Zapata.

To allow people to continue social distancing and staying home, HHSC is encouraging SNAP clients to request their replacement food benefits by calling 2-1-1 and pressing option 2. Alternately, recipients can download Form H1855 (Affidavit for Nonreceipt or Destroyed Food Stamp Benefits) on the HHSC website. To limit exposure to COVID-19, recipients are encouraged to mail or fax the completed form to HHSC instead of visiting their local offices. Completed forms should be mailed to Texas Health and Human Services Commission, PO Box 149027, Austin, Texas, 78714-9027 or faxed to 1-877-447-2839.