A Month After Hurricane Irma, Disaster Food Stamp Registration Gets Underway With Long Lines

Oct 12, 2017

Kendrix Haynes lost a lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma: all his food and his pet bearded dragon, Rocky. It was the power (or rather the lack of it). Without it, his refrigerator couldn’t stay cold enough and the heat lamp wasn't hot enough. 

“It's a lot,” said Haynes, “but each day is getting better and better.”

He’s been waiting for two hours in line to help with at least one of his needs: food assistance.

The registration tent at Miami Dade College North Campus
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Broward and Miami-Dade counties have opened their registration for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP. The program extends food stamp-like assistance to families who wouldn't otherwise qualify for help, but with damage from the storm need some help.

Lines started forming early in the morning, before registration began at 7 a.m. and by noon had stretched around the parking lot of Miami Dade College North Campus. Many stood with umbrellas to at times block the sun, at others to ward off the rain.

People came after night shifts or before afternoon shifts. Others had to take off work.

All were hoping to get approved for a little bit of help putting food on the table.

Eligibility standards for D-SNAP
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture

“Too long if you ask me. You know it should have been a long time ago,” said Haynes of the rollout of the program.

It was a common criticism up and down the lines of at least two registration sites where thousands of people lined up.

“We have to apply to the federal government,” said Beatriz Lopez, from the Department of Children and families, in response to concern about how long it took. “It also takes time to be able to get the [registration] sites because a lot is going on right after a hurricane.”

People who were approved for D-SNAP benefits were given a card on site. It will take up to 72 hours for those to be loaded with money.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Before the state was approved for the aid, Robin Bailey Jr. from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it's a matter of making sure there is the infrastructure to roll out a program like D-SNAP.

“Disaster SNAP is the latter part [of relief efforts]. It's not first,” said Bailey.

Harris County, where Houston is, just finished its registration process a week before Broward and Miami-Dade County began its process.

In South Florida, people can pre-register, but everyone still has to go in-person to one of the registration sites—four in Miami-Dade and three in Broward—for final approval.

After a rocky start at most of the Miami-Dade locations, where a computer issue forced temporary workers to switch to paper applications, things seemed to be moving more quickly on day two.

Many people walking away with benefits cards said they waited three to four hours in line, but once they got inside the registration tent things ran smoothly. They were told on-site whether they were approved, though they would need to call in and see what amount they would get. People walked away with benefit cards that will be loaded within 72 hours.

Storms intermittently dropped rain on thousands waiting to register for D-SNAP.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

“Things could get worse,” said Nancy Clairsaint, who was without electricity for two weeks after the storm. After four hours, making friends with her neighbors in line, she was steps away from the registration tent, appreciative of any help she could get.

Kendrix Haynes, the guy who owned the bearded dragon, got approved for his D-SNAP benefits after four hours in line.

Registration in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties runs through Oct. 15. While the Department of Children and Families hopes all who intend to register for D-SNAP come during that period, a representative said people who miss the deadline can go  to Palm Beach County when its registration begins on the 17th.

Broward Site Locations:

Central Broward Reg. Park (3801 W Sunrise Blvd. Lauderhill, FL 33311)

C.B. Smith Park (900 N Flamingo Rd. Pembroke Pines, FL 33028)

Quiet Waters Parks and Recreation (401 S Powerline Rd. Deerfield Beach, FL 33442)

Miami-Dade Site Locations:

South Government Center (10710 SW 211 St. Miami, FL 33189)

Amelia Earhart Park (401 E 65th St. Hialeah, FL 33013)

Tropical Park (7900 SW 40 St. Miami, FL 33155)

Miami-Dade College North (11380 NW 27th Ave. Miami, FL 33167)

Palm Beach Site Locations:

John Prince Memorial Park (4754 S Congress Ave. Lake Worth, FL 33461)

Lake Ida West Park (1455 Lake Ida Road Delray Beach, FL 33444)

Glades Pioneer Park (866 SW 16th St. Belle Glade, FL 33130)