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April 27, 2021

As COVID-related food assistance expands, Floridians experience delays, frustration [Miami Herald]

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Christina Saint Louis writes:

"Harmon Brody has received food assistance under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since 2012, the year his heart stopped while he was driving. He survived but spent three days in an induced coma.

When his organ failure reversed, his doctor considered him a 'walking miracle,' the now 70-year-old Blountstown resident and University of Miami alumnus said. But the experience left him disabled, with worsened epilepsy, severe depression and limited work capabilities.

...

Cindy Huddleston, a senior analyst with Florida Policy Institute whose focus is on safety-net programs [emphasis added], said DCF did not adequately communicate the coming of the delays or the reason. As a result, 'a lot of people didn’t understand that actually, although the delay was unfortunate, the reason for the delay was because USDA was figuring out how to expand access to everyone,' she said.

'Transparency has been a problem with all the state agencies throughout the pandemic,' she added. 'It would go a long way if they let people know what was happening . . . that way people would be able to plan a budget.'

In addition to updating its web page, Huddleston said it would be great if DCF sent emails and text messages and made social media posts. From April 1–13, the department did not post information about the delays on its YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account. In response to tweets asking when the food assistance would be released, the department said 'DCF is working quickly with our federal partners to implement newly required policy changes for the April distribution of maximum benefits,' and directed the users to the Florida agency web page."

Read more on miamiherald.com

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