Miami-Dade County

The long waits for Irma food stamps were painful. Now, some can get help by phone

Thousands line up for final day of emergency food stamp distribution at Hard Rock Stadium

Day three of the emergency food stamp distribution event at Hard Rock Stadium.
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Day three of the emergency food stamp distribution event at Hard Rock Stadium.

Months after Hurricane Irma, there will be another chance for some people to receive emergency food assistance. And it won’t require waiting in long lines in the sun.

Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Children and Families received federal approval to conduct phone interviews for senior applicants and applicants with disabilities. Those interviews will take place Saturday and Sunday.

The approval comes after a federal lawsuit from multiple advocacy groups, including the University of Miami Health Rights Clinic, the Miami Workers Center, the New Florida Majority and others. They argue that DCF had not properly accommodated for disabled people seeking emergency food stamps.

Seniors 60 and older and people with disabilities, who registered online by Nov. 9, can interview by phone to receive benefits and have an EBT card mailed to them if they’re approved.

DCF has handled the rollout of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Long lines and demand for those people affected by Hurricane Irma started with the first round of distribution in October.

Tens of thousands of applicants waited for hours to receive food stamps at Tropical Park in West Miami-Dade, with many being turned away. And it was a similar scene earlier this month at the BB&T Center in Sunrise and outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, as thousands waited before demand caused early shutdowns of the sites.

The agency said that they processed more than a million applications and administered benefits to more than three million people.

Critics argue that hundreds of thousands of applicants were unable to complete the in-person interviews, including about 37,000 elderly applicants.

The lawsuit from UM’s Health Rights Clinic and the other groups is still open.

The interviews will be held between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and applicants should call 855-278-7136. The agency said the days will be split alphabetically so last names A-L should call Saturday, Dec. 2, and M-Z should call on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Applicants need to have an ID and Social Security number ready and will be asked to prove their identity during the interview.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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