BURGAW — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced two new flexibilities for people and families in the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program to help those affected by Hurricane Florence. These temporary flexibilities will apply to all 100 counties and the more than 600,000 households enrolled in the FNS program.
“We are doing everything we can to help people impacted by Hurricane Florence,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., “Many families will feel the effects of this disaster long after the storm has passed, and we will continue to support them in any way possible in the weeks and months ahead.”
“When the aftermath of Hurricane Florence allows our county offices to open and roads are safe, we will aid our residents,” said Wesley Stewart, director of Pender County Department of Social Services.
Beginning Sept. 17, North Carolinians in the FNS program will be able to purchase hot food, including food prepared for immediate consumption, from authorized Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) retailers using their EBT card. All authorized EBT vendors in the state have been notified about this change, which is effective until Oct. 31. This will ensure families who are not able to prepare food at home due to displacement or power outages still have access to warm meals. Customers should inquire first with the store to see if they can process hot food purchases. It is important to note this is for authorized retailers, not restaurants.
Also beginning Sept. 17, families who have a loss of food purchased with their September FNS benefits will have longer than the normal 10 days to report the loss to receive replacement benefits. Families will have until Oct. 15 to request a replacement. This will provide additional time for families who cannot report a food loss to their local Department of Social Services office due to displacement, transportation issues or other storm-related hardships.
A Disaster Food and Nutrition Services Program has not yet been approved at this time for North Carolina. DHHS is actively working with USDA to receive federal authority to operate this program. Once the department has approval, this information will be communicated.
For more information regarding Hurricane Florence, please visit www.ncdps.gov/florence and www.ncdhhs.gov/hurricane-florence. Those with non-emergency questions or concerns related to the hurricane should call 2-1-1 or visit www.nc211.org. Call the Pender County Department of Social Services at 910-259-1240, when county offices are restored to full function.