U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the deadline for Floridians to apply for emergency food benefits, known as D-SNAP, in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Nelson said the state of Florida’s failure to properly administer the USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has prevented thousands of eligible Floridians from getting the food assistance they need.
“DCF’s failure to properly staff application sites has led to exceptionally long lines that have made it impossible for hundreds of thousands of Florida families to get the benefits they need.” Nelson wrote. “These families should not be punished for the state’s failure to properly administer this program. And I strongly urge USDA to not only provide the resources and personnel necessary to help alleviate these unnecessarily long lines, but also to extend the application period to ensure Floridians who are eligible for these benefits have a chance to apply.”
USDA approved D-SNAP benefits for 48 Florida counties on Sept. 22. At that time, Florida’s Department of Children and Families estimated that nearly 2.5 million Florida households would apply for the benefits – but, according to DCF, less than one million applications have been processed so far.
Since the program began, thousands of Floridians have lined up at registration sites around the state to try to apply for the benefits. Instead of completing their applications, many Floridians found themselves waiting in line for hours only to be turned away.
And now, as application periods around the state come to a close, Nelson fears that thousands of eligible Floridians may miss out entirely if USDA fails to extend the application period.
Of the 48 counties initially approved for D-SNAP, only five are still accepting applications – they are: Broward, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Pasco.
The last day to apply for D-SNAP benefits in Marion and Monroe counties is today, while the application periods in Pasco, Broward and Miami-Dade counties end next week.