The visuals are heart wrenching. Hurricane Harvey and the continuing catastrophic flooding have pounded the city of Houston and devastated the coastal communities of south Texas. As our thoughts and hearts go out to those whose lives have been forever changed by this weather phenomenon, we grasp for those actions we can take that can help bring relief to those affected.
For Operators in Southeast Texas and Cameron Parish in Louisiana
FMI has reached out to all our members with stores in coastal Texas and Louisiana, but we remind those in areas reeling from Hurricane Harvey’s fury that we are here, standing by, ready to offer assistance. You should be aware that:
- The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) has boots on the ground, working with the Mayor of Houston and retail stores located in flooded areas. TRA has created a list of stores that are either open for operation this week, or are preparing to open. See the list here. TRA has also created a list of items needed in the Houston area. See it here. Also among the many things TRA is doing is assisting retailers with permits for trucks and security guards.
- USDA has created a Disaster Resource Center Page. See it here. Also, here is the Hurricane Harvey-specific page.
- USDA has issued a hot food purchase waiver for all SNAP authorized retail food stores in the State of Texas, enabling them to let SNAP customers know they can use their SNAP EBT benefits to purchase hot foods and, where practical, customers may remain on the premises to consume those foods.
- The DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued waivers for Texas and Louisiana, thereby waiving the hours of service and other rules until September 4th in those states. DOT advises drivers travelling through another state in-route to Texas or Louisiana should have paperwork indicating they are transporting in “supportive response” to the impacted states. A copy of both waivers is available here: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists a number of resources on their website. These include the National Situation Report and ways to access both federal and state assistance. The following number may also be used: 1-800-621-FEMA. Texans can also get the latest updates and register for disaster assistance on their cell phones using FEMA’s mobile application, available at m.fema.gov. Click here to sign up for FEMA's email subscription service.
- For the latest road closures across Texas, click here or call 800-452-9292.
D-SNAP for Texas:
- FMI is in contact with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service which administers the Disaster-SNAP (D-SNAP) program. Any individual or family in a disaster-related area that undergoes damage to their home or self-employment property, or has disaster-related expenses, food loss, income disruption or inaccessibility to liquid resources may be approved for D-SNAP. D-SNAP is established following a federally-declared disaster and when a state receives approval from USDA FNS. We will notify members when D-SNAP has gone into effect in Texas. Additionally, Texas has the option of including individuals working in the disaster area. Disqualification status from SNAP does not disqualify an applicant from D-SNAP. To view FNS’s recent and current responses, including D-SNAP distribution, click here.
FNS approved the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) request to operate a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in 39 counties that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The D-SNAP application period will begin on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, through Tuesday, September 19, 2017, in 11 counties: Dewitt, Gonzalez, Jasper, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Matagorda, Newton, Orange, Sabine and Tyler.Applicants may only apply at the site designated for the county they resided in at the time of the disaster. Application sites will operate from 8am - 7pm each day of the application period. Eligible households will receive 2 months of D-SNAP benefits. Click here for more information on D-SNAP application sites.
FNS also approved the State request to issue automatic supplements to ongoing SNAP households in 39 counties that received a presidential declaration of disaster for individual assistance. FNS approved the automatic issuance of 2 months of disaster supplemental benefits. Ongoing SNAP households in other counties affected by Hurricane Harvey that have not been included in a presidential declaration of disaster for individual assistance, may request disaster supplements on an individual basis via signed affidavit attesting to their disaster losses. Ongoing households already receiving the maximum monthly SNAP allotment for their household size are not eligible for disaster supplements, as no household may receive more than the maximum allotment during the benefit period. Learn more at USDA's Texas Disaster Nutrition Assistance webpage on Hurricane Harvey.
Answers to some recent D-SNAP Questions:
1. The application window is only open for 11 counties from 9/13 – 9/19… no mention of the other 28 counties. It looks like on one of the links We looked at maybe all of the larger metropolitan areas like Houston, Corpus, Victoria will be handled separately at a late date?
ANSWER: The State is going to implement the D-SNAP in phases and the 11 counties listed are part of phase 1. From the bottom of the page on the Texas website https://hhs.texas.gov/services/financial/disaster-assistance/disaster-snap : “Larger-population sites, such as in Houston and Corpus Christi, will launch in the coming days with special sites to accommodate large volumes of people who would not be able to be efficiently served through a local HHS office. HHS has asked local government officials in those areas to identify sites that are convenient and large enough to handle the expected volumes of applicants. HHS will announce those sites as soon as possible.”
2. There appear to be fairly strict limitations on how one can receive the D-SNAP benefits, and one of the stipulations listed is, “Not have been getting regular SNAP food benefits at the time of the disaster.” However, the release also states, "FNS also approved the State request to issue automatic supplements to ongoing SNAP households in 39 counties that received a presidential declaration of disaster for individual assistance. FNS approved the automatic issuance of 2 months of disaster supplemental benefits. .." Are current SNAP recipients also receiving additional disaster supplemental benefits on top of what they received right after the hurricane?
ANSWER: Yes. Households already receiving SNAP benefits (ongoing households) are never eligible to receive D-SNAP benefits. Automatic supplements are provided to ensure parity between ongoing households and D-SNAP households. Automatic supplements bring the benefits of ongoing SNAP households up to the maximum allotment for their household size, so any household already receiving the maximum allotment for their household size will not receive a supplement. If so, when will they receive them? Timing will be up to the State and may be phased with the DSNAP implementation.
3. Are there any limitations on the products that can be purchased with the benefits?
ANSWER: D-SNAP benefits follow the same rules as any other SNAP benefits and may only be spent on eligible SNAP items.
4. When will the benefits be loaded and available for customers to use?
ANSWER: D-SNAP benefits must be accessible to the client within 72 hours of application, except in questionable cases in which the State may delay benefit issuance for up to 7 days to allow for verification of questionable information on the application.
5. Will the benefits be loaded all on a single day… or staggered in over a certain time window?
ANSWER: The 2 months of benefits will be loaded all at once as a combined benefit allotment.
6. How long will the customer have to redeem these extra benefits (e.g. if they’re not used within a certain timeframe are they forfeited)?
ANSWER: State agencies may request FNS approval to expunge disaster benefits earlier than regular SNAP benefits. We suggest you contact HHSC to determine if they anticipate that they may request early expungement.
7. Is there someone I can call who can answer questions? I hate to keep bothering you.
ANSWER: If it’s very specific to the Texas DSNAP you can contact Todd Byrnes, Director of Eligibility Services at Todd.Byrnes@hhsc.state.tx.us.
Resources for Pharmacy:
- Healthcare Ready's Rx Open is an interactive map that helps patients and providers find nearby open pharmacies in areas impacted by disaster. The map will be updated daily throughout the federally declared disaster. If your status is not accurate or you want to enroll your pharmacy, please send an email with your name, the name of the pharmacy, and the NCPDP or NPI number for the pharmacy to Healthcare Ready at ContactUs@HealthcareReady.org or call 1-866-247-2694.
- Emergency preparedness "refill too soon" edit override: Reminder: NCPDP members have approved the most effective method for overriding "refill too soon" type reject during a disaster: using the Submission Clarification Code 13 - Payer-Recognized Emergency/Disaster Assistance Request. The pharmacist is indicating that an override is needed based on an emergency/disaster situation recognized by the payer. Access more information from NCPDP on Emergency Preparedness.
- Texas health officials have issued guidance for Texas pharmacies that need to dispense emergency refills. Click here for information from the Texas Board of Pharmacy.
- The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency and the CMS 1135 waiver program is now available. Certain requirements for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP are modified to ensure needs are met and providers and suppliers acting in good faith are reimbursed. Find out more details on the CMS website.
- Healthcare Ready is standing by to learn of health care needs and gaps. If there are any needs regarding infrastructure, transportation or supplies that arise, please contact them directly firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-247-2694.
- The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program is on standby should Texas officials request activation. When activated, EPAP functions as a third-party payer to process claims for certain kinds of prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment (DME) for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area. Information for pharmacies, including the database of enrolled pharmacies, is available here.
For Those In the Larger Food Retail Community
Whenever disaster hits an industry colleague, the rest of us are left wrestling with how best to help them. According to the Volunteer and Donate Responsibly page on the FEMA website, donating cash through a trusted organization is the most effective means of making a difference. While goods and foods are helpful, they take precious organizing and management time to sort and distribute at a time when speed is of utmost importance. Cash contributions provide the agencies trained in helping those in need with the utmost flexibility in obtaining the most needed resources and getting them to those who need them most.
If you would like to join FMI in helping provide Harvey disaster relief to our friends and colleagues in Texas, we provide the following information regarding on-going relief efforts.
An organization—National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) – maintains a list of reputable organizations operating in affected areas and the list for Texas VOAD members can be found here.
- Feeding Texas
- The Houston Food Bank
- Galveston County Food Bank
- Corpus Christi Food Bank
- A number of FMI member companies (or their related Foundations) are making contributions to such relief organizations as the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Feeding Texas and Convoy for Hope. A list of some of the companies making corporate donations can be found here.
- The American Red Cross is accepting donations to aid more than 1,700 people in Texas shelters and to support cleanup efforts. You can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross.
- The United Wayhas also announced a way to text a donation: Text UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund
- Americares leverages its relationships with pharmaceutical companies donating product to provide medical supplies and aid in response to emergencies. The Connecticut-based nonprofit helped with relief efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Americares says every $10 donation allows it to provide $200 worth of aid. You can donate online or call 1-800-486-HELP
- Episcopal Relief and Development: Hurricane Harvey Response Fund provides emergency assistance to people recovering from the impact of flooding.
- The Salvation Army accepts contributions online or by mail, or phone. To call, dial 1-800-SAL-ARMY, or send a check specifying Harvey relief to PO BOX 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301. To get updates on SA’s Harvey relief efforts go to www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SalArmyEDS, or on Twitter @SalArmyEDS.
- Catholic Charities USA has a domestic relief agency which will provide aid to victims of Harvey regardless of their religion or background. It offers online donations and the opportunity to donate by texting CCUSADISASTER to 71777.
- Samaritan’s Purse is an international relief organization that has responded to nine disasters in Texas since 2015. It plans to strip damaged homes of floors and walls damaged by water and work with partner churches to provide relief. You can donate on their website or sign up to volunteer in the area.
For additional assistance please contact the following FMI Staff:
- For government relations and pharmacy questions contact Jennifer Hatcher;
- For food safety questions contact Hilary Thesmar; and
- For donation questions contact David Fikes.