USDA approves waivers for Arkansas SNAP recipients affected by tornadoes
A rainbow arcs over tornado damage along Shackleford Road in west Little Rock on March 31, 2023. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved two waivers for Arkansas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients affected by tornadoes that killed five people on March 31.
The first waiver gives SNAP recipients in Cross, Lonoke and Pulaski counties until May 1 to report their loss of food purchased with SNAP benefits. This waives the standard 10-day requirement to report benefit loss due to “household misfortune,” according to a press release from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
The second waiver expands the definition of “food” to allow the purchase of hot meals or foods with SNAP benefits through April 30.
The USDA has also allowed Arkansas to distribute USDA Foods — packages containing foods grown and produced on U.S. farms — under Disaster Household Distribution, allowing access for households that would not normally qualify for food assistance. Income verification or other program eligibility are not required.
According to a USDA press release, approximately 7,000 families are eligible to receive the food packages, a short-term measure to address an immediate need until a longer-term solution is ready to be implemented.
The DHD program will work with local food banks to issue food boxes to Arkansans. Residents of the three affected counties can contact the Arkansas Food Bank, Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas or the DHS Commodity Distribution Office for assistance. More resources are available on DHS’ website.
The USDA also approved an Arkansas Department of Education’s request for waivers for Child Nutrition Program operations impacted by the tornado. During unanticipated school closures, the Wynne School District may serve meals through various programs in a non-congregate setting, adjust the timing of meal service, allow parent pickup and serve meals at school sites under the waiver approval.
FEMA officials announced Tuesday they will open a joint Disaster Recovery Center with the state of Arkansas in Wynne on Wednesday. The center will be at Ridgeview Church, which is located at 999 U.S. Hwy. 64 East. Hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Monday that FEMA has opened two permanent locations for disaster assistance at the West Central Community Center in Little Rock and the North Little Rock Community Center. These will replace temporary FEMA locations in Pulaski County.
Sanders also signed two executive orders Monday to assist Arkansans affected by last month’s tornadoes. The first expanded on an April 4 order to extend the personal income tax filing and payment deadline to July 31. The new executive order extends those deadlines for a pass-through entity to July 31.
It also waives fees for a duplicate driver’s license, instruction permit or identification card; fees for expedited title processing services; interest and penalties for failure to register a vehicle; and penalties for failure to renew a vehicle registration until July 31.
The second executive order allows the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management to use $3 million from the Governor’s Disaster Response and Recovery Fund. It also suspends certain procurement requirements for the duration of the state of emergency.
President Joe Biden on Saturday authorized an increase in the level of federal disaster response funds to 100% of cleanup costs incurred during the first month of tornado recovery efforts in Arkansas.
Additional information about resources for Arkansans affected by the storms as well as volunteer opportunities can be found at www.helparkansas.com.
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