Hurricane

Free food stamps? The truth and scams post-Hurricane Irma

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If you’re getting phone calls, texts or emails saying FEMA is giving away free food stamps post Hurricane Irma — it’s a scam.

Ignore it.

Don’t call the number, don’t give your money or your personal information, FEMA officials say, slashing the rumor that the federal agency offers hurricane victims money for food.

A FEMA spokesman told the Miami Herald Thursday that the only FEMA phone number people should call in regards to disaster relief is 1-800-621-3362 or go to DisasterAssistance.gov to file their claim. That number is related to federal disaster assistance for uninsured and under-insured damages and losses resulting from the storm.

The entity that does have a food stamp emergency program is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s called Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). The program gives food assistance to low-income households with food loss or damage caused by a natural disaster.

The program has yet to be implemented in Florida, however.

Before it launches, a few things have to happen first —supermarkets need to be restocked, transportation should be running and most power should be restored.

Things have to be back to normal so those who qualify can go to the store and buy food.

Aerial footage of residential damage and debris from Hurricane Irma near mile marker 74 in the Islamorada area of the Florida Keys.

And once the program does become active, this is how it works:

If you’re a current SNAP (EBT/foodstamp) client, you can request a supplement if you meet at least one of the following conditions:

▪ You currently get benefits that are less than the monthly maximum

▪ You have losses from the disaster that are not reimbursed.

Low-income households not normally eligible under regular program rules may qualify for D-SNAP if they meet the disaster income limits, which are slightly higher, and have qualifying disaster-related expenses such as loss of income, damage to property and relocation expenses.

Eligible households receive one month of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size. Benefits are issued via an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which can be used to purchase food at most grocery stores.

D-SNAP benefits are issued within 72 hours.

To find out when D-SNAP becomes available in the Sunshine State, check the USDA website.

Once it’s active, you would need to apply at the Department of Children and Families. To find an office in Miami-Dade County that works with DCF, click here. The website is in English, Spanish and Kreyol.

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