Disaster SNAP Due to Natural Disaster
Disaster CalFresh (or Disaster SNAP / D-SNAP) provides temporary food assistance for households affected by a natural disaster. It provides one month of benefits to eligible disaster survivors and can facilitate the issuance of supplemental benefits for ongoing households. People who are not usually eligible for CalFresh can qualify for Disaster CalFresh if they meet the criteria below. The State and affected counties work together to apply to the USDA for Disaster CalFresh. Once approved, there is a 7 day application window. In order to get Disaster CalFresh, people must apply for it within that 7 day window.
To be eligible for Disaster CalFresh, a household must fall under these guidelines:
Live and/or work in the identified disaster area and experienced at least one of the following:
- Cannot work or get paid because of the disaster, or
- Had your home or place of self-employment damaged, or
- Have disaster-related costs (including lost food), or
- Cannot access savings or checking accounts.
An affected area must have received a Presidential declaration of "Major Disaster" in order to request Disaster CalFresh.
Disaster CalFresh timing varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored, and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. The idea behind this is that stores need to be open and able to process EBT cards. In some cases resources might be focused on congregate meal sites and emergency food distribution, if there isn't a way to access grocery stores and/or prepare food at home. Before operating Disaster CalFresh, a State will ensure that proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place.
After Disaster CalFresh goes live for applications to be submitted, interviews must be face-to-face.
If people with disabilities who are displaced require accommodation, the County needs to work with them.
More about Disaster CalFresh (known at the federal level as D-SNAP)
D-SNAP is designed for situations where a large number of households have disaster-related expenses not considered by the regular program and where the need is so great that the vastly streamlined D-SNAP certification process is warranted. The State has the primary role for planning, requesting, and operating a D-SNAP from the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). D-SNAP provides a full month's allotment to households who may not normally qualify for or participate in SNAP/CalFresh. The allotment for a household is equal to the maximum monthly allotment for the household size provided under regular SNAP/CalFresh. States supplement the regular SNAP/CalFresh benefits of ongoing households affected by the disaster to bring them up to the maximum allotment.
D-SNAP applications are usually accepted for a period of seven days. Households receive 30 days worth of benefits, except in extraordinary circumstances. Verification rules are eased for the eligibility process during a disaster, application and interview are done immediately on site, and benefits will be granted on EBT cards. The brief eligibility interview is for verifying information presented on the application. An authorized representative can do this for the applicant, if needed. For each disaster, the State determines the exact number and location of application/issuance sites.
Providing Outreach Assistance for Disaster CalFresh
It is essential to take a proactive approach to public information and outreach from the start of the disaster response. Providing accurate, timely information to the public about what Disaster CalFresh is, how it works, and who may be eligible is a crucial first step in ensuring a successful program. Experience has shown that offering clear, consistent information is particularly important for easing the public's concerns and providing efficient application processing. Publicity materials must include application sites for each county or area and should indicate what site(s) households in a given area can apply. It is important to indicate the operating hours/days at each site, including if they will be accepting applications on weekends or beyond normal business hours. Encourage applicants to bring any documentation they have.
Our outreach partners in other areas of the state, who have assisted with massive natural disasters, offered the feedback of how important it was for Outreach partners to have flyers indicating County phone number, location(s) for applying for Disaster CalFresh, and the deadline for applying. There is a short window of time for completing an application for Disaster CalFresh. As an Outreach worker, be prepared with enough food and water to feed yourself while in the field, and consider training in advance on how to approach people who are processing a major life-changing disaster.
Ways to Help
In addition to helping to get accurate information out to the public, there are ways you can help at Disaster CalFresh application sites. Help those who have difficulty understanding or completing the application. Pre-screen and talk about basic eligibility criteria (not potential eligibility), and review applications for completeness. Help provide human comforts: distribute food/water, direct applicants to restrooms, assist applicants with disabilities and the elderly. Not everyone will be prepared for a potentially long line or long wait.
Households can apply online in any county at http://benefitscal.org, however please remember that there is a 7 day window for applying for Disaster CalFresh, and interviews must be conducted face-to-face (not via phone). Therefore, applying in person at a county CalFresh office is the fastest way to ensure benefits within the 7 day window.
Q: Can households have a Disaster CalFresh interview in the county they have evacuated to?
A: Yes, it is possible for the State is work with county offices to prepare to conduct these interviews.
Q: Is the Disaster CalFresh application available online?
For more details
- Disaster SNAP Guidance manual published by the USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS)
- Emergency Response Handbook (from the CA Dept of Social Services).
- Disaster Outreach published by USDA
- California Dept of Social Services' (CDSS) Emergency Response and Recovery Tool Kit, full of information, webinars, and resources.
- CDSS Guide to Disaster Assistance Services for Californians, which provides detailed information about the types of federal, state, and local disaster assistance services available in California. There are no costs to apply for these programs. View the version of this same guide specific to immigrant Californians (in English) and here in Spanish.