DCF Issues Updates on Federal Disaster Food Assistance Program

For Immediate Release: October 18, 2017

DCF Issues Updates on Federal Disaster Food Assistance Program

TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) issued updates on the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) operations in Florida. DCF continues to operate federal DSNAP and since September 27, has served individuals in 34 counties. DCF has processed more than 625,000 DSNAP applications that meet the federal requirements and more than $873 million in federal food assistance has been distributed between DSNAP and SNAP supplements across Florida. This will help more than 6.7 million Floridians through SNAP and DSNAP as they continue to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

“We are grateful for our local partnerships that have been essential in facilitating successful federal DSNAP operations across the state. Today, as operations continue in Palm Beach and Polk counties, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Lakeland Police Department have been exemplary partners in providing a safe and orderly environment for DCF to conduct the federal DSNAP program in their communities. Our law enforcement partners in these communities are working hard alongside us to ensure the citizens of their counties get the help they need,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. “I am also very proud of the thousands of DCF personnel and those we’ve brought on temporarily to assist who are working very long hours to serve their communities and neighbors by administering this much needed federal aid.”

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.

State actions taken, local information, and important reminders are 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.
  • Operations in several large counties have already concluded and successfully provided assistance to thousands of residents, including:
    • Hillsborough – 207,674 individuals issued benefits
    • Duval – 184,827 individuals issued benefits
    • Lucie – 129,482 individuals issued benefits
    • Osceola – 125,910 individuals issued benefits
    • Brevard – 121,185 individuals issued benefits
    • Volusia – 116,215 individuals issued benefits
    • Pinellas – 108,546 individuals issued benefits
  • Statewide data on DSNAP by county as of October 17 is available here.
  • Deployed 110 DCF staff from Miami to assist with operations at two Palm Beach County sites
  • 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
  • Extended operating hours at the three Palm Beach County sites to 7:00 p.m. each day
  • 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.
  • Welcomed Pasco County residents for service in Polk County yesterday and today
  • Requested additional days to serve Miami-Dade County past the standard seven-day limit
  • 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
  • Additional sites will open in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Marion counties to continue to serve residents in these areas. Details will be announced at www.myflfamilies.com/fff as soon as possible.
  • Every site is distributing bottled water to individuals.
  • 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 21,190 D-SNAP applications as of October 17 and have avoided issuing more than $5.2 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