NGA Blog

How Grocers Can Help Those Impacted by Hurricane Harvey

Aug 29, 2017

The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) is putting out a call for help – and we're amplifying their message. The state association has been working alongside local authorities to distribute food and other items to areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In fact, two of their members are even helping with on-the-group rescue efforts.

Despite all the great work they’re doing, Texans need more help than they’re currently receiving. The TRA recommends that supermarkets and individuals help in the following ways:

1. Sending Basic Supplies

  • Towels
  • Cots
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Basic Toiletries/Essentials

If you’re able to make a donation, please contact George Kelemen, president and CEO of TRA, at gkelemen@txretailers.org.

2. Supporting Disaster-Relief Organizations

In addition to specific items, disaster-relief organizations are asking for financial support. Below are the organizations that TRA urges grocers to donate to.

Red Cross
Help people affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Team Rubicon
Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

National Vol. Organizations Active in Disaster 
National VOAD, an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters, provides a forum promoting cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration; and fosters more effective delivery of services to communities affected by disaster.

3. Follow Special Disaster Rules for Accepting SNAP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allowing retail food stores licensed by the Food and Nutrition Services to accept SNAP benefits in Texas to accept SNAP benefits in exchange for hot foods and food intended to be consumed on retailer premises. These special rules are in effect through Sept. 30, 2017.

For the full announcement, click HERE.

4. Donate Health Care Supplies and Know the Pharmacy Resources Available

Healthcare Ready is coordinating directly with organizations to supply trained health care professional volunteers. If your pharmacy has a health care supply or is able to donate supplies, please email Alerts@HealthcareReady.org. Requests so far include oxygen concentrators, insulin, syringes, and other medical supplies. 

Below is important information grocers with a health care supply or pharmacy should know:

  • Medicare Advantage and Part D plans are required to ensure enrollees have access to prescription drugs during an emergency. People who evacuated without their medications should be able to obtain a full-quantity, early refill at any pharmacy. This includes non-network pharmacies if the enrollee cannot reasonably be expected to obtain prescriptions at a network pharmacy. Refer to section Prescription Drug Benefit Manual Chapter 5, Section 50.12 if asked for documentation of this requirement.
  • Information about insulin storage and switching between products in an emergency is available from the FDA HERE.
  • Emergency preparedness "refill too soon" edit override: Reminder: NCPDP members have approved the most effective method for overriding "refill too soon" type reject during a disaster: using the Submission Clarification Code 13—Payer-Recognized Emergency/Disaster Assistance Request. The pharmacist is indicating that an override is needed based on an emergency/disaster situation recognized by the payer. Access more information from NCPDP on Emergency Preparedness.
  • Texas health officials have issued guidance for Texas pharmacies that need to dispense emergency refillsClick here for information from the Texas Board of Pharmacy.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency, and the CMS 1135 waiver program is now available. Certain requirements for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP are modified to ensure needs are met and providers and suppliers acting in good faith are reimbursed. Find out more details on the CMS website.
  • Healthcare Ready is standing by to learn of health care needs and gaps. If there are any needs regarding infrastructure, transportation or supplies that arise, please contact them directly alerts@healthcareready.org or 1-866-247-2694.
  • The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program is on standby should Texas officials request activation. When activated, EPAP functions as a third-party payer to process claims for certain kinds of prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment (DME) for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area. Information for pharmacies, including the database of enrolled pharmacies, is available here.

To learn more about the pharmacy resources available to those affected, click HERE.

5. Learn About the Flexibilities for WIC Food Package Rules

Families participating in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in hurricane-stricken Texas will have an easier time finding WIC-approved foods for mothers and their children thanks to food-package flexibilities approved Sunday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Pregnant, post-partum and nursing women and children participating in WIC are given a personal food “prescription” designed to meet their specific nutritional needs. Under normal circumstances, they can use their food benefits at authorized retailers to purchase only specific WIC food items. The flexibilities approved this past weekend and lasting through September 24, will expand the variety of certain WIC products allowed to be purchased based on what is available on store shelves.

The products include:

Eggs. Participants will be allowed to purchase a variety of types of eggs in various pack sizes.
Bread. Participants will be allowed to purchase a variety of bread products in various sizes that are readily available at the retailer.  Retailers will be assisting participants in making their selections.
Fluid Milk. Participants over the age of one year will be allowed to substitute milk of any available fat content and type despite the designation of their food package. Flavored milk will not be considered.