U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the USDA has approved New York State's request for emergency food resources. Roughly 1.1 million pounds of household-size USDA food items will be distributed to households through 1,000 designated emergency feeding outlets in the areas of Westchester and Rockland counties, New York City, and Long Island. This distribution will take place from November 4 through November 30.
Additionally, the USDA also approved New York State's request to extend certification periods for ongoing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households due to recertify in October and November in Bronx, Kings, Richmond, Queens, New York, Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, Westchester, Orange, Putnam, and Sullivan counties. Cases in the 12 counties will be extended for one additional month without the need to recertify. The USDA also approved New York's request to issue automatic, mass replacement benefits equal to 50 percent of the October 2012 benefit amount for SNAP recipients in the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. A complete list of zip codes where recipients will receive replacement SNAP benefits is available here: http://otda.ny.gov/news/SNAP-replacements.pdf
The USDA announced these efforts after Senators Schumer and Gillibrand called on the agency to send emergency food resources to struggling New Yorkers reeling from Hurricane Sandy and left without food or shelter.
"As residents throughout New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the federal government needs all hands on deck," said Schumer. "I am relieved that the USDA heeded our call to provide over a million pounds of food for New Yorkers who are fighting through the aftermath of this storm, and has agreed to extend critical support to those that rely on federal food assistance to feed their families. I will continue to call on the federal government to provide meals, safety and infrastructure repairs for the hardest hit areas."
"The damage I have seen and the destruction of whole communities is just devastating," Senator Gillibrand said. "Too many families are still struggling with basic necessities like food, heat and shelter. The federal government will stand with these families at every step of the way to meet these basic needs and rebuild. The Obama Administration promised no red tape in this effort, and I am thankful to the USDA for backing up those words by acting as quickly as they could to put food on the ground in communities where families need it most."
Soup kitchens and food pantries are serving New Yorkers with food deliveries where conditions allow, and nutrition advocates and volunteers are working around the clock to bring meals within reach to New Yorkers displaced by the storm and flooding. But as families that receive food stamps reach the end of the month when benefits typically run scarce, more turn to food pantries, doubling the pressure on these resources already stretched thin by the storm.
Late last week, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand called on the USDA to bring all federal resources to bear to keep food pantries stocked, and help feed struggling New Yorkers left in the wake of this massive storm.
The Senators' complete letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
Thank you again for your partnership in helping New York after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee struck our state last fall. Your attention to New York's post- disaster needs were much appreciated, and we are writing to you today to again ask for your assistance in helping New York recover from Super Storm Sandy.
Specifically, we seek your support in 1) granting a mass Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reimbursement for recipients in the disaster impacted counties, 2) waiving the unprepared food requirement for SNAP purchases, since so many New Yorkers are without power and unable to cook their own meals, 3) approving the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) when submitted by the state, and 4) sending additional Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) resources to our regions in need post disaster, especially New York City, Hudson Valley, Westchester and Long Island.
We are so proud of our New York soup kitchens and food pantries which continue to serve New Yorkers in need with food deliveries when weather and road conditions have allowed. Anti-hunger workers and volunteers in New York are working double time to make sure that all New Yorkers, but especially those vulnerable populations, don't go without food. New Yorkers need additional TEFAP food to survive.
New Yorkers who receive SNAP benefits have lost up to 90% of their benefits due to power outages and flooding, meaning they are in critical need of immediate reimbursement. We need to connect those eligible to the Disaster SNAP program once it is up and running, as well as procure as much food as possible for resource strapped food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. Many food pantries and soup kitchens are flooded or lost power, meaning they have spoiled food and equipment damage. We need to help them rebuild, but also recognize the added pressure this will put on those that are operational. These soup kitchens and food pantries need additional TEFAP resources to stay open and keeping hunger at bay in New York.
Thank you again for your continued support of New York, especially during these critical times after Super Storm Sandy. We look forward to continuing to work together.