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The Department of Children and Families still doesn’t have a specific timeline for when people will see post-hurricane food stamps.
And the agency isn’t answering some key questions that have been raised recently:
▪ Why were 110 Miami DCF staffers deployed to Palm Beach County earlier this month, even though Miami-Dade and Broward centers were so overwhelmed they had to be shut down?
▪ How does the agency plan on avoiding the snarling lines, cases of heat exhaustion and fights that happened when the agency opened a limited amount of centers for only five days in Miami-Dade?
▪ Will there be accommodations for the elderly and people with disabilities who cannot wait in line?
As of Monday, DCF didn’t have a response.
“DCF has aggressively pursued actions to ensure operations are as expeditious, safe and efficient as possible,” DCF spokeswoman Jessica Sims said in a press release. “When DCF’s administration of the federal DSNAP program has ended, we will conduct a thorough review of all DSNAP operations,” she wrote in a follow-up email to the Herald.
Earlier in the month, tens of thousands of people across South Florida waited for hours in the heat to get D-SNAP, the emergency food stamps of the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The program is offering food benefits in 48 counties in Florida to households that sustained disaster-related losses after Hurricane Irma hit last month.
The program gives applicants who qualify under the program’s income limits — and don’t have regular SNAP benefits — EBT cards with funds that activate within two to three days so they can buy groceries for the upcoming month.
About 1 in 4 households in Miami-Dade live below the poverty level, according to the United Way’s 2017 ALICE Report — which uses 2015 data to establish a county income threshold based on a family’s “household survival budget.” About 37 percent of households have little or no savings and are one emergency away from falling into poverty, the report said.
Critics have blasted the state agency for not being prepared.
Over the weekend, officials told WLRN that a three-day sign-up event will be held in both Miami-Dade and Broward within the next two weeks.
On Monday, the agency wouldn’t confirm location, times or dates, and referred people to its website for updates. Applicants are being encouraged to preregister online.
Meanwhile, the University of Miami Health Rights Clinic, and other local advocacy groups are still waiting for a response to a letter they wrote demanding a more efficient way of helping those in need. The letter asked the agency to open more sites for longer periods and waive the requirement that registrants appear on-site.
Advocates asked for a response by Oct. 18, which was Wednesday — but the wait continues.
“I believe the fact that they didn’t respond at all, means they don’t care,” said Thomas Voracek, a second-year UM law student who works with the clinic and tried to get benefits on behalf of two clients. “I hope they make it right.”
When asked if the agency would respond, Sims said she didn’t “have the letter handy.”
Voracek said he only got an answer after calling the agency and speaking to Jeri Flora-Culley, the agency’s assistant secretary of Economic Self Sufficiency, who told him the agency planned on opening one site for three days in Miami-Dade.
“There’s no way that that’s going to cut it,” he said. “DCF is playing the same record that didn’t work last time.”