Nebraska DHHS clarifies SNAP benefits information related to recent outages

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 11:22 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraskans looking for help replacing food lost in the aftermath of this weekend’s windstorm have had a tough time getting to the bottom of how to do so.

And while it does seem that anyone can indeed apply for such benefits — even online, via the Access Nebraska website — the department reiterated in a news release Tuesday afternoon that “only Nebraskans who received SNAP benefits qualify for replacement benefits.”

Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services posted information Monday for those in need following the weekend storms. DHHS advised Monday afternoon that current SNAP recipients who lost power in the aftermath of Saturday’s windstorm to call the Economic Assistance hotline to find out whether they qualified for replacement benefits: The posted hotline number is 1-800-383-4278, but Omaha residents will then be advised to call 402-595-1258 instead.

The matter caused some confusion earlier Monday as to who would be eligible for such benefits, with many commenting on social media that they had spent a lot of time trying to get through only to find out they did not qualify.

“We want to ensure you’re aware only current SNAP households may be eligible for these SNAP replacement benefits if they meet the eligibility criteria requirements,” DHHS tweeted Monday morning.

However, when 6 News put a call through to the hotline on Tuesday, they were told by a DHHS representative that help was available for people who lost food during the weekend outage — and that those in need did not need to be SNAP recipients in order to apply for that assistance.

“We’ll help everybody,” a DHHS case manager working the Omaha hotline on Tuesday morning said.

When calling into the hotline, 6 News was on hold for approximately 15 minutes before speaking with a case manager during the 10 a.m. hour on Tuesday and were advised not to engage the initial call menu presenting four options but to hold through the options until you hear options to select the language preference for the call, or to stay on the line for English. Once the next set of options begins, DHHS suggests pressing “4″ immediately to save time, and that will take the caller to a case manager.

Wading through the options will also present callers with the option to apply for assistance over the phone, or directed them to apply online via AccessNebraska.

Regardless, according to the Nebraska DHHS communications office release, the state is only taking requests for replacement SNAP benefits, and those requests must be accompanied — within 10 days — by a signed statement attesting to the loss. At that time, SNAP recipients will be issued the replacement value not to exceed the household’s monthly allotment.

Natural disasters allow for additional replacement requests during natural disasters, but no disaster has been declared in the aftermath of the weekend’s storm.

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