Florida provides $1 billion in food assistance after Hurricane Irma

Traffic jam in Seminole County for food assistance

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter , Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida officials said Monday they have distributed more than $1 billion worth of food assistance following Hurricane Irma.

Thousands of people statewide have swamped some of the sites where officials were accepting applications for the program that gives out vouchers to use in grocery stores.

Some Democratic politicians, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, have criticized how the aid has been distributed.

At Camping World Stadium in Orlando, the Florida Department of Children and Families had over 500 employees on site to help with the large volume of applications. On the first day, many people were turned away after the location was shut down.

In Seminole County Monday, cars lined up along U.S.17-92 and SR 436 to receive food assistance. Many locations have been shut down early, because of the massive lines and congestion.

Residents are encouraged to register online before coming to one of the assistance locations. After registering, people should bring photo identification and the process takes about 10 minutes, Florida DCF Regional Managing Director William D'Aiyuto said.

Next workers will ask what residents lost during and after Hurricane Irma, which includes loss of income, food, temporary housing costs and home damage. This will help determine how much reimbursement money people receive.

Even though it's called a food assistance program, it's not just food, D'Aiyuto said.

"They'll receive an EBT card if they're approved here on site; within 72 hours the benefit would be uploaded," D'Aiyuto said. "They get two months of the benefit. So for a family size of three, it's a total of $1,000."

There is an income cap to qualify. Single residents can't make more than $1,600 a month and a family of four cannot make more than $2,700 a month.

[RELATED: Food for Florida eligibility requirements]

As of late last week, the Department of Children and Families said it had processed nearly 700,000 applications from people who applied for help. The state has wrapped up issuing benefits in several counties, but this weekend it opened operations in Central Florida at Camping World Stadium in Orlando and Orlando Live Events in Casselberry.

Irma ripped through the state in early September, causing damage and thousands of job losses.

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