Key Takeaways

  • The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) was created to help people who have suffered financial hardship due to a natural disaster.

  • Even when an older adult doesn't qualify for traditional SNAP, they might qualify for D-SNAP benefits if they have disaster-related expenses.

  • Similar to regular SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, D-SNAP applicants must meet certain income and asset eligibility criteria in order to qualify.

In late 2021, the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused catastrophic flooding across eight states in the northeastern U.S. The destruction was swift and severe, causing many people to lose their cars, their belongings, and even their homes. The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) was created to help people recover from devastating natural disasters like this.

What is D-SNAP?

Like traditional SNAP, D-SNAP provides electronic food benefits for households in need. The difference is that D-SNAP is designed specifically for people whose disaster-related expenses might prevent them from buying food. Also known as “disaster food stamps” or “disaster SNAP,” D-SNAP is delivered at the state level as part of its disaster response.

Before setting up D-SNAP in a disaster area, a state must receive an Individual Assistance declaration from the president of the U.S. In addition, it must receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The state has a limited period, typically one week, during which they can accept D-SNAP applications from community residents.

Who is eligible for D-SNAP?

Even when an older adult doesn't qualify for regular SNAP benefits, they might qualify for D-SNAP if they:

  • Must pay to evacuate their home or relocate
  • Lost their source of income due to a disaster
  • Are facing home or business repairs due to a disaster
  • Must pay for temporary shelter costs
  • Lost food due to power outages or flooding
  • Suffered a disaster-related injury or illness

If a senior already receives regular SNAP assistance and their state establishes D-SNAP in an emergency, they can request a supplemental benefit if they’ve suffered disaster-related losses and their monthly SNAP benefits are less than the monthly maximum.

If an applicant qualifies for disaster SNAP, they can expect to receive benefits within three days. These benefits are delivered via an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which can be used to purchase eligible food items at most grocery stores.

What are the D-SNAP income limits for 2022?

To be eligible for D-SNAP, applicants must meet certain income and asset requirements. Their household’s after-tax income plus its accessible liquid resources (e.g., cash, savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds) during the disaster benefit period, minus unreimbursed disaster-related expenses, must not exceed the Disaster Gross Income Limit (DGIL) for that household size.

For fiscal year 2022 (October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022), the DGIL for the 48 contiguous U.S. states and the District of Columbia is as follows:

D-SNAP income limits differ for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some examples of deductible disaster-related expenses include:

  • Evacuation costs
  • Temporary shelter
  • Clean-up costs
  • Storage expenses
  • Home or business repairs
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Medical expenses for a disaster-related injury or illness
  • Disaster-related pet boarding fees

State agencies can streamline D-SNAP eligibility determination by applying the Disaster Standard Expense Deduction (DSED). This formula uses a standard monetary amount for a household's disaster expenses if that household has unreimbursed disaster expenses equal to or greater than $100. Households whose only disaster-related expense is food loss don’t qualify for the DSED.  

If a household’s expenses exceed the DSED, the actual cost of disaster expenses is used when determining eligibility for D-SNAP.

How long will I receive D-SNAP benefits?

Unlike traditional SNAP, disaster SNAP is a short-term disaster recovery assistance program. Eligible households receive one month of benefits. This amount is equal to the maximum SNAP benefit amount typically issued to a SNAP household of the same size.

How do I apply for D-SNAP benefits for myself or an older adult I care for?

If you're in an area hard-hit by a natural disaster, look for information regarding D-SNAP availability in your local media and press. You can also contact your nearest SNAP office for further details on disaster SNAP and how to apply for benefits. In some states, you can pre-register for disaster food stamps online to make the application process easier.

Other kinds of emergency SNAP benefits

There are additional circumstances in which an older adult might qualify for emergency SNAP assistance. These benefits and the process for obtaining them may vary from state to state:

  • Expedited SNAP benefits: These benefits are delivered to eligible applicants within 7 days. They may be issued for one month while the applicant has their full SNAP application reviewed.
  • Replacement SNAP benefits: Current SNAP recipients can apply for replacement SNAP benefits if they lost food purchased with their SNAP EBT card. This loss must be due to a power outage (at least 24 hours) or another household incident. 

Check SNAP eligibility for yourself—or an older adult you know

Are you familiar with the advantages of regular SNAP? The average benefit for a one-person senior household is $104 per month, which can be used to buy everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to milk, meat, cheese, and snacks. This life-changing program empowers older adults to buy the foods they need to stay healthy, whether it’s on a regular basis or during trying times.

Clara, age 61, is a great example of SNAP’s positive impact. When the hurricane hit and she was without power for three days, she lost all her food and sustained damage to her roof. In addition to visiting a local emergency food distribution center, Clara signed up for SNAP benefits and was approved.

"I couldn't believe how easy it was to apply," Clara told NCOA. "I never realized I'd qualify, even before the storm."

Don’t assume you don’t qualify for SNAP. Visit BenefitsCheckup.org and use our secure, confidential screening tool to check your eligibility for SNAP assistance and other benefit programs in your area. You can also check our SNAP Map to find contact information for your local food stamps office, where you can connect with program experts and ask specific questions.