BY GLENN GARVIN
MIAMI – Tens of thousands of South Floridians stood for hours in the sweltering, soggy heat on Sunday, Oct. 15 at Tropical Park, waiting to apply for special food stamps available only to victims Hurricane Irma, stunning state officials who were expecting far fewer people.
“We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families. “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.”
Whether they would all get their chance to apply for the food stamps was uncertain as the relentless heat burned on Sunday afternoon.
Not for current recipients
The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, as the program is known, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and operated by DCF, is designed for people in 48 counties across the state who aren’t ordinarily eligible for food stamps but suffered losses during Hurricane Irma last month.
It opened in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Oct. 11 and drew steadily bigger crowds through its Sunday finale. The crowds were so large and rowdy on Saturday that five of the distribution points closed early in the day — in some cases, before serving even a single client.
But the turnout at Tropical Park in Miami, though huge, was orderly.
$300 to $1,300
The food stamps are distributed on a sliding scale that factors in family size, income and amount of hurricane damage, so there’s a wide variance in how much a client might get.
But DCF officials said a typical single person could qualify for about $300, and a typical family of four could get $1,300.
For those in the state who missed it, dates, times, and locations will be announced at a later date.
For more information, visit www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/access/fff/.