Food stamp rules are relaxed in North Carolina to help victims of Hurricane Florence

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People can use SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, on hot and prepared foods in North Carolina, the federal government declared Monday amid the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Florence.

“As the state of North Carolina works to recover from this storm, USDA stands ready to provide common-sense flexibilities to help them meet the needs of their citizens,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Monday.

The USDA has not announced a change for South Carolina as of 5 p.m. Monday.

SNAP benefits are not usually allowed to be used on hot foods or foods ready for immediate consumption. But, Perdue noted, many in the state cannot store food and/or do not have access to cooking equipment after Hurricane Florence struck Friday and brought wide spread flooding to many parts of the state.

In North Carolina in 2016, more than 1.5 million people received some benefits from the SNAP program, according to a January report from the Department of Agriculture. As of July 2017, North Carolina had more than 10.2 million residents.

SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families and considers itself “the domestic hunger safety net.”

The change is allowed under the disaster declaration for the state, but it may take up to 36 hours for retailers who accept SNAP to accept the change due to programming changes, the Department of Agriculture said. Due to power outages, some stores may only accept cash.