DCF Issues Updates for Federal Food for Florida Program

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2017

DCF Issues Updates for Federal Food for Florida Program
~Miami and Broward DSNAP Events Scheduled~
TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) released updates on the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) operations in Florida. The additional days for DSNAP operations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been scheduled for November 7-9.

“After just over 30 days of operations of the federal DSNAP program in Florida, DCF has processed more than 937,000 applications, in addition to more than one million households provided with supplemental SNAP benefits and nearly 1.5 million households had their SNAP benefits replaced. This means $1.2 billion has been put into families’ hands to buy food across the state,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. “I’m proud of the effort our staff has made, with half of the agency contributing to this operation. These efforts will continue when we return to Miami-Dade and Broward counties next week to again serve families in these communities.”

In response to Hurricane Irma, DCF has distributed more than $1.2 billion in federal disaster food assistance through DSNAP, supplemental benefits, and replacements for regular SNAP customers. As of October 26, DCF has processed more than 937,000 DSNAP applications for this federal program. This will help more than 7.2 million Floridians through SNAP and DSNAP as they continue to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

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, to demonstrate Florida’s immediate intent to administer the federal DSNAP program and begin the conversation with FNS on DSNAP planning efforts.
  • DCF worked closely with FNS staff, including an in-person meeting in Ocala on September 18, to expedite the application to provide this assistance as soon as possible. The final application, submitted September 19, was approved by FNS on September 21.
  • DCF sent a letterto 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. The October 25 letter included that, FNS appreciates the complexity and scope of the historic response to Hurricane Irma, and commends DCF for its preparation and efforts in processing nearly 600,000 applications to date, and the State’s adjustment to site capacity and crowd control based on lessons learned since the start of D-SNAP operations.
  • The Marion County DSNAP event will be held at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala October 31 through November 2.
  • 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 be strictly enforcing no overnight or on the road parking.
  • The Broward County DSNAP event will be held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, November 7-9. DCF has coordinated closely with the Sunrise Police Department, Broward Sheriff's Office, Broward County Administration, United Way, the Red Cross, and the venue’s management to ensure safe and efficient operations.
    • Per the Sunrise Police Department, bags or personal items larger than 12 by 12 inches, backpacks, coolers, umbrellas, and chairs are not permitted.
  • The Miami-Dade County DSNAP event will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, November 7-9. DCF has worked closely with the Miami-Dade Police Department and the venue’s management to ensure safe and efficient operations.
    • Please note that the stadium’s clear bag policy will be in effect for each day of this event.
  • 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 at headquarters to support processing of applications
  • Deployed more than 6,000 staff 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.-6:00 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 34,138 D-SNAP applications as of October 26 and have avoided issuing more than $9.9 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