U.S. Rep. Al Lawson urges new food-aid policies to help Irma recovery
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is seeking changes to federal food-aid programs to help people affected by Hurricane Irma.
Lawson, D-Fla., asked Gov. Rick Scott this week to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture for policy waivers similar to requests that Texas and Louisiana made after Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina.
Lawson was joined by nine other members of Congress from Florida in asking for a series of waivers that would:
- Offer free breakfast and lunch programs to students in schools affected by Irma, whether or not their families met income guidelines for the programs;
- “Significantly increase” the number food packages a USDA program provides to food banks in storm-impacted areas;
- Allow low-income mothers in USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program to replace lost or damaged baby formula and baby food or buy substitute foods when shortages make formula and baby food unavailable;
- Let people who evacuated out of the state receive food stamp benefits even if they weren’t eligible before; and
- Activate disaster benefits that can supplement or replace normal benefits, and extend the time allowed for certifying a person meets the program’s eligibility standards.
Lawson, whose district runs from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee, said the changes would be practical steps to help people cope with Irma’s effects.
“One of the most effective ways we can immediately help those impacted by the hurricane is by making sure that people have access to food,” Lawson said. “By making these additional requests, similar to those made by Texas after Hurricane Harvey, we can ensure that food assistance is part of our comprehensive recovery efforts.”