Monday, 11 September 2017 18:11

Hurricane Irma Grocery Update

The Department of Children & Families is requesting a waiver to allow hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption to be considered “eligible foods” as long as they are purchased in FNS-authorized retail food stores Statewide. Florida is requesting a statewide waiver due to the number of individuals who were under a mandatory evacuation order. The Florida Division of Emergency Management estimated 6.3 million Floridians were under an evacuation order as of September 9, 2017.

Justification for Request: Hurricane Irma has ravaged the State of Florida, and caused many residents to evacuate and temporarily relocate to the northern part of the State and out of State. Most of these evacuees are staying in shelters or other temporary housing arrangements, and are unable to store food or have access to cooking facilities. 587 shelters have been opened in Florida with an estimated population of 203,000 as of September 11, 2017. The need for food will remain critical through September 30, 2017, for these recipients due to the potential loss of food from power outages, severe flooding, and displacement from permanent homes. There is an estimated 6.2 million Floridians without power as of 9 am on September 11, 2017. Waiving the Act and regulation language that excludes the purchase of hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption will ensure that SNAP recipients most adversely affected by the disaster have the opportunity to have hot meals.

Anticipated Impact on Households: Allowing the purchase of hot foods will assist and provide critical relief to SNAP households most adversely affected by the disaster who are temporarily unable to prepare hot meals due to prolonged power outages and/or displacement from their homes. This language is taken directly from the waiver sent to FNS this AM. We are in communication with them and anticipate their approval. This hot foods waiver request extends through September 30th. Hot foods purchased w/EBT cards are tax exempt.

We have also been told grocers who participate will need to download some special software for their POS machines. They may want to contact their third party provider for more information. FGA staff have already spoken to the TPPs, and they are aware of this detail.

Early Release of SNAP Benefits
Florida will issue remaining September SNAP benefits to clients statewide tomorrow - on September 7 (rather than via the normal Florida benefit issuance stagger schedule - which runs from the 1st through the 28th of each month). A change to the issuance schedule within the benefit month does not require a waiver from FNS.

USDA's disaster webpage will be updated for Irma; for reference this is where information for Florida will appear shortly.

Hurricane Preparations
We know many of you are quickly preparing and bracing for Hurricane Irma. FMI wants to be a resource for all grocers and help in any way possible. Please feel free to share this information with anyone in your operations. We are quickly and continually uploading additional links and resources as we receive them, so be sure to check back often:

FMI Hurricane IRMA page

Preparing for the Sales Tax Holiday

We are very pleased that our work with the Florida Legislature ultimately included provisions for a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday during the 2017 session. This sales tax holiday will encourage Floridians to stock up on the supplies they need to be prepared for the hurricane season and other potential disasters.

This holiday is coming up VERY SOON! The bill is currently waiting for Governor Scott’s signature to make it official, but we wanted all of our members to be well aware of the details of the holiday so that you can prepare and make the most of this event in your stores. We have reached out to the Department of Revenue to inquire when we can expect to receive the TIP sheet on this event. In the meantime, here are the details that you may need to get ready.

When is the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday?
12:01 a.m. on June 2, 2017, through 11:59 p.m. on June 4, 2017

What items fall under the sales tax holiday?
During the period of time listed above, sales tax should not be collected on the following items:

  • A portable self-powered light source selling for $20 or less.
  • A portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or Weatherband radio selling for $50 or less.
  • A tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less.
  • A self-contained first-aid kit selling for $30 or less.
  • A ground anchor system or tie-down kit selling for $50 or less.
  • A gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less.
  • A package of AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries, selling for $30 or less.
  • A nonelectric food storage cooler selling for $30 or less.
  • A portable generator used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage selling for $750 or less.
  • Reusable ice selling for $10 or less.

Does everyone who sells these items have to participate?
The tax exemptions do not apply to sales of the above items that take place in theme parks or entertainment complexes, lodging establishments, or airports. Every other retailer must provide the sales tax exemptions on the items above during the designated time period.

When we receive further details from the Department of Revenue, we will send it out immediately. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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