DCF Issues Updates For Federal Disaster Food Assistance Program

For Immediate Release: November 3, 2017

DCF ISSUES UPDATES ON FEDERAL 
DISASTER FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

TALLAHASSEE – As of October 31, DCF processed more than one million applications for disaster food assistance through the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) operations in Florida. The final DSNAP sites will open in Pasco County on November 5, and in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on November 7. Additionally, in an effort to ensure assistance has been provided to all Floridians in need, DCF sent a request to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service today requesting a waiver of the in-person interview requirements for the elderly and disabled for phone interviews to be allowed through the Customer Call Center on November 11-12.

“Core to DCF’s mission is the protection of the vulnerable and helping individuals and families be self-sufficient, and this extends to DCF’s administration of the federal DSNAP program. While the DSNAP operation in Florida following Hurricane Irma is unprecedented in size and scope and accommodations have been made for those with special needs at each DSNAP site, we recognize that there may be vulnerable Floridians still in need of assistance. To that end, DCF sent a request to USDA today to allow us to conduct phone interviews for the elderly and the disabled to help facilitate their application for DSNAP before the operation concludes in the coming week,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll.

To date, in response to Hurricane Irma, DCF has distributed more than $1.3 billion in federal disaster food assistance through DSNAP, supplemental benefits, and replacements for regular SNAP customers. More than 7 million Floridians recovering from the impacts of this historic storm have received emergency food benefits, allowing them to provide food for their families during this difficult time.

Public safety is paramount and is DCF’s first priority as we operate assistance sites throughout the state. DCF will continue to follow the direction of local law enforcement in every community to ensure the safety of those we are committed to serving. DCF defers to local law enforcement for all determinations related to traffic or public safety issues. DCF has aggressively pursued actions to ensure operations are as expeditious, safe, and efficient as possible. Following the conclusion of the Food for Florida program statewide, DCF will conduct a thorough after action review of all operations.

Important details are included below.

  • DCF submitted the first request for disaster food assistance to the federal government on September 13, just three days after Hurricane Irma’s first impact to Florida.
  • DCF sent a letter to the USDA on October 17 to request additional flexibility and resources in administering the federal DSNAP program in Florida.
    • Read the FNS response to DCF here
  • Read DCF’s letter to the USDA regarding a waiver for the elderly and disabled populations here
  • Statewide data on DSNAP by county as of October 31 is available here.
  • The Pasco County DSNAP event will be held at the Pasco County Fairgrounds November 5-8.
    • DCF is working diligently with Pasco County Fairground officials and local law enforcement to establish a safe and secure site for Pasco families.
    • The gates will not open until 6:30 a.m. on November 5 per local officials, and law enforcement will strictly enforce no overnight or on the road parking.
  • Miami-Dade and Broward residents are encouraged to attend the sites in their respective county of residence.
  • The Miami-Dade County DSNAP event will be held at Hard Rock Stadium, November 7-9.
    • DCF has worked closely with management at Hard Rock Stadium, as well as the Miami-Dade Police Department, to ensure safe and efficient operations.
    • Hard Rock Stadium’s clear bag and prohibited items policies will be strictly enforced. For more information, visit http://hardrockstadium.com/stadium-experience/.
    • A designated parking area at the North Gate will be available for individuals with special needs. Those with state-issued permits will enter through Gates 2 and 3 and will be directed accordingly. 
  • The Broward County DSNAP event will be held at the BB&T Center, November 7-9.
    • DCF has worked closely with management at the BB&T Center as well as the Sunrise Police Department to ensure safe and efficient operations.
    • BB&T’s bag and personal item policy will be strictly enforced at this event: Bags or personal items larger than 12 by 12 inches, backpacks, coolers, umbrellas, and chairs are not permitted in the exterior line or inside of the BB&T Center building.
    • There will be two special needs application processing areas inside of the BB&T Center on the main entry level for applicants with special needs. 
  • Important reminders for Florida families:
    • DSNAP is not for current food assistance customers.
    • Apply online/pre-registration is strongly encouraged prior to visiting a site.
    • Only head of household should come to the site for an interview.
    • Please visit on the days listed here:  http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/access/fff/siteLocations.shtml
    • Please attend on the date we are serving the first initial of your last name.
    • Please bring a valid Florida Driver's License or Identification Card.
  • Assigned 750 staff from headquarters to support processing of applications
  • Deployed more than 6,000 staff statewide to assist in operations and administration of this federal program, including nearly 1,500 temporary workers, to Food for Florida sites to process applications
  • Deployed staff from the panhandle to support operations in affected counties
  • The ACCESS Call Center hours have been increased to help serve more people during the day for the duration of the DSNAP program to 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Hired traffic control companies to aid with parking and traffic control
  • Special accommodations are available for the elderly and disabled. Onsite staff are working to monitor the population of those in lines to assist elderly and disabled residents to the front of the line. Those who need these accommodations should find staff to inquire about expedited service.
  • Shuttled staff from remote locations to allow for more onsite parking
  • Every site is distributing bottled water to individuals waiting in line on foot.
  • DCF takes the responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer money very seriously and investigates all instances of potential fraud. DCF’s Public Benefits Integrity (PBI) program has investigators on-site at each FFF location to review potentially fraudulent applicants and conduct investigations for profiles flagged as fraud-prone. PBI investigators are also monitoring social media sites for fraudulent sales of food assistance. Individuals who are found guilty of submitting false information on their application for D-SNAP benefits are subject to criminal prosecution and will be required to pay the money back. PBI on-site staff reviewed more than 37,000 D-SNAP applications as of October 31 and have avoided issuing more than $11 million in fraudulent benefits.

 

In addition to DSNAP, DCF applied for federal food assistance program waivers and provided:

  • Early release of food assistance benefits prior to Hurricane Irma making landfall to help families prepare
  • Hot Foods Waiver, and a subsequent extension, to allow families to purchase prepared food with their EBT cards at participating retailers
  • Extended the time frame to report food loss from 10 to 20 days
  • Mass food assistance replacement benefits for September to SNAP recipients in 52 counties effected by Hurricane Irma
  • Extended October SNAP recertification deadlines for three months

 

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