More Than $1 Billion in Federal Disaster Food Assistance Distributed in Florida

For Immediate Release: October 20, 2017

More Than $1 Billion in Federal Disaster Food
Assistance Distributed in Florida

TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) released updates on the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) operations in Florida. To date, in response to Hurricane Irma, DCF has distributed more than $1 billion in federal disaster food assistance through DSNAP and supplemental benefits and replacements for regular SNAP customers. As of October 19, DCF has processed more than 683,500 DSNAP applications that meet the federal requirements and more than $954 million in federal food assistance has been distributed between DSNAP and SNAP supplements across Florida. 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.
    • 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
    • Operations in several large counties have already concluded and assistance was successfully provided 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 19 is available here.
      • The Orange County DSNAP site opens tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando for Orange County residents with a last name beginning with A through F. The site will be open through Wednesday, October 25.
        • DCF is working closely with local officials, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, to ensure the site and surrounding area are prepared for safe and efficient operations to serve Orange County residents.
        • More than 500 DCF staff will be working at the site to serve residents.
        • Residents are encouraged to carpool or use public transportation to reduce traffic congestion in the area.
        • Media are asked to park in Lot J.
      • The Seminole County DSNAP site opens tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. for Seminole County residents with last names beginning with A through F at Orlando Live Events in Casselberry.
      • 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.
      • 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:
        • 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.
      • 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.
      • 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 as soon as possible.
      • 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 27,416 D-SNAP applications as of October 19 and have avoided issuing more than $7.4 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