Disaster benefits available for 16 counties
Residents in 16 counties who suffered financial burdens following the June 29 derecho will be able to apply next week for special disaster benefits, state Department of Health and Human Resources officials announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared residents in those counties eligible for D-SNAP benefits, or Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Similar to regular SNAP benefits, which used to be known as food stamps, the D-SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food items for people who suffer financial losses in a disaster.
The benefits are limited to purchase of food for human consumption and not for alcoholic beverages, tobacco or non-food items.
Residents in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Greenbrier, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, McDowell, Pocahontas, Roane, Tyler, Webster and Wood counties will be able to apply for the benefits at county DHHR offices from Nov. 26 through Dec. 2.
The D-SNAP benefits are not limited to people currently enrolled in the state's food stamp program.
Anyone in the 16 counties who could not access money in their bank accounts, had un-reimbursed disaster-related expenses or lost income because they were unable to work during the disaster is eligible for D-SNAP benefits, provided they meet certain income guidelines.
State senior SNAP policy specialist Dawn Hawkins said benefits would be paid to people based on a special formula.
When individuals apply, registration workers will take the applicant's available income received during the disaster, plus the cash they had on hand, and any money they had in accessible bank accounts, then subtract the person's un-reimbursed disaster-related expenses.
That calculation will be used to find the applicant's net income during the disaster period. That net income, factored with the size of a person's household, will determine if the person is eligible.
A single person with net income of less than $1,514 will be eligible for D-SNAP benefits under the program. For a household of four, the threshold is $2,477.
"For these benefits, everything will have to be verified," Hawkins said. "They have to provide any documentation for any disaster-related expenses, any income they received during the benefit period, as well as their checking and savings accounts over the benefit period."
Applicants also will be asked for a photo ID and proof of residency.
The 16 counties were the second set of West Virginia counties approved for individual disaster assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this year.
Kanawha, Fayette, Raleigh and Nicholas were the first four counties approved. Residents in those four counties also could apply for D-SNAP benefits, but the application period ended in early October.
Right after the derecho, state officials allowed current SNAP recipients to apply for additional benefits to replace food lost during the power outages.
Current SNAP recipients are eligible to apply for supplemental D-SNAP benefits. However, if those recipients received the maximum full month's worth of replacement SNAP benefits following the derecho, they are not eligible for supplemental benefits through D-SNAP.
The DHHR Office of the Inspector General will screen the D-SNAP applicants for people seeking duplicate benefits.
Anyone who collects double benefits or provides false application information will be disqualified from the program and could face criminal penalties, including up to a $250,000 fine and 20-year jail sentence.
Starting Monday, local DHHR offices will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday to allow people to apply for the program.
If they receive additional food benefits, recipients must use the funds within 120 days.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.