LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits have been expanded for eastern Kentuckians after this summer's floods. Disaster SNAP, or DSNAP, and replacement SNAP benefits have been available to families impacted by the floods who normally wouldn't be eligible for SNAP benefits and those that were already receiving SNAP.
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s Jessica Klein says, "The benefits that are available for people that were receiving food assistance prior to the disaster — they still have a few flexibilities within that program to make sure that they're able to get the food that they need."
While DSNAP benefits expired earlier this month, Kentucky Policy's associate Klein explains that extended benefits and hot meal waivers are still available to people in the region.
"For example, those families can use what's called a hot foods waiver — so they're able to purchase hot foods that wouldn't normally be eligible with their SNAP benefits. So, for example, they could go to a grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken, which they wouldn't normally be able to buy,” she says.
Leaders with Kentucky Policy say that right now around one-fourth of eastern Kentuckians have already been using some type of food assistance benefit. One advocate says it’s important that these residents know their access and get signed up.
Cara Stewart, director of policy advocacy at Kentucky Voices for Health, says, "In the counties that were flood-affected, people are still eligible and should still be calling and reaching out for more food."
Stewart has been in eastern Kentucky helping get people hot meals, waivers, and signed up for benefits. Now, sitting with her own son, she explains how these benefits will continue to help families long term.
"This is the way to have a more lasting impact, then handing somebody a plate. I'm handing people plates of food, at the same time asking them if they've enrolled in DSNAP, at the same time asking them if they got their replacement SNAP — because I can’t feed them a plate of food every single day, but they can get that plate of food if they're enrolled in SNAP and DSNAP,” says Stewart.
These leaders know there is a stigma around applying for food benefits. Kentucky policy leaders say this is nothing to be ashamed of.
"The average SNAP participant is a working family, so, it just doesn't earn enough to meet the grocery needs of their family size. So, you know, I think it's important to remember that working families across Kentucky might need help with food assistance and it's nothing to be ashamed of,” says Klein.