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A plate of hot food donated and cooked by friends on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 at the corner of Dowman and Morrison roads in New Orleans East. Friends Buck Horton and Lucky Johnson teamed up to help their community affected by Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture green lighted Tuesday a change in rules that allows many families access to food stamps even though under normal circumstances they make too much money to qualify.

Households – even those with six-figure incomes – will be allowed to include storm-related damages in their income calculations, which opens the doors for many families to receive groceries – about $680 worth for a family of four.

Up to 150,000 households are expected to apply for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. D-SNAP is administered by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. People already receiving food stamps can’t apply.

The agency will start taking applications on Sept. 20 – everyone wanting to apply must phone the agency during specified times on a specified schedule. Most applicants will learn immediately if they qualify and for how much.

Very generally, to qualify for regular SNAP, a family gross income has to be below a certain amount – $34,452 for a family of four. Plus, when rent and utilities, child support and other allowable expenses are deducted, the net income can be no more than $26,508 per year.

If both gross and net income levels are met, the family of four receives $680 each month to buy groceries.

D-SNAP waives some of those requirements.

For instance, there’s no gross income standard. The applicant just has to meet the net monthly income of $2,990 or less, for a family of four. But the calculations that determine that net income number includes deductions for disaster-related expenses.

An “authorized representative” will interview a representative from the household to gather information about income, other sources of funds, such as checking and savings accounts. They also ask about disaster-related expenses incurred between Aug. 26, three days before the hurricane made landfall, and Sept. 24.

Then the “authorized representative” will subtract from that gross amount the dollars spent or expected to be spent on disaster-related expenses to come up with the net income number.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service approved a D-SNAP operation for the following parishes and ZIP codes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin (only lower St. Martin parish ZIP codes 70339 and 70380), St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.

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Residents in the approved parishes can call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center, 1-888-524-3578, to apply and be interviewed for D-SNAP. Applicants should call 1-888-524-3578, select their language, prompt 6 and then 1 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Residents should call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center to apply and be interviewed for D-SNAP on their designated day (according to the first letter of their last name) or on the A-Z days, which are open to all residents in the approved parishes and ZIP codes for each phase. Parishes were assigned to each phase based on power, telephone/internet connectivity, mail delivery and grocery stores are open at the time the D-SNAP request was submitted.

PHASE 1 – September 20-25

E. Baton Rouge, E. Feliciana, Iberia, Orleans, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Washington, W. Baton Rouge and W. Feliciana

  • Day 1 (Monday, Sept. 20) – Residents with last names beginning with A-F
  • Day 2 (Tuesday, Sept. 21) – G-M
  • Day 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 22) – N-S
  • Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 23) – T-Z
  • Day 5 (Friday, Sept. 24) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 1 parishes
  • Day 6 (Saturday, Sept. 25) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 1 parishes

PHASE 2 – September 27-October 2

Ascension, Assumption, Iberville, Jefferson, Livingston, Plaquemines, St. Helena, St. Martin (lower St. Martin Parish ZIPs only 70339 & 70380), St. Mary and Tangipahoa

  • Day 1 (Monday, Sept. 27) – Residents with last names beginning with A-F
  • Day 2 (Tuesday, Sept. 28) – G-M
  • Day 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 29) – N-S
  • Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 30) – T-Z
  • Day 5 (Friday, Oct. 1) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 2 parishes
  • Day 6 (Saturday, Oct. 2) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 2 parishes

PHASE 3 – October 4-9

Lafourche, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and Terrebonne

  • Day 1 (Monday, Oct. 4) – Residents with last names beginning with A-F
  • Day 2 (Tuesday, Oct. 5) – G-M
  • Day 3 (Wednesday, Oct. 6) – N-S
  • Day 4 (Thursday, Oct. 7) – T-Z
  • Day 5 (Friday, Oct. 8) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 3 parishes
  • Day 6 (Saturday, Oct. 9) – Open for all (letters A-Z) in the Phase 3 parishes

Additional information about DSNAP can be found by texting LADSNAP to 898-211 or by visiting www.dcfs.la.gov/DSNAP. Translation services are available for individuals whose primary language is not English.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.