South Florida residents were once again eager Wednesday to get inside John Prince Park and Lake Ida Park for the second day of food relief assistance.
Palm Beach County sheriff's Cap. William Bruckner said more people came through the John Prince Park event Wednesday than Tuesday.
He said by 1 p.m. Wednesday, 4,100 people had already been processed.
PBSO took a different approach to the Food for Florida disaster assistance event at John Prince Park to alleviate congestion.
This comes after Tuesday morning was filled with congested streets when thousands of people waited hours to sign up for food assistance.
On Wednesday, deputies did not allow people to line up in their cars until 6 a.m. When the park opened at 7 a.m., they were allowed to drive into the park. At this site, people are not allowed to walk in and have to be inside a vehicle.
Bruckner said traffic flow was significantly better around John Prince Park Wednesday compared to Tuesday.
He said PBSO staffed up and used drones to monitor traffic. The office also brought out deputies on horseback for crowd control.
The site never had to do a soft closing Wednesday, which Bruckner said happened three times Tuesday to get people already in line processed before adding on more people.
However, people said they still waited in their cars for hours before getting into the park Wednesday.
"6:30 this morning, we were almost to Broadway on Lantana Road," Tracy Adkins said. "It took four and a half hours to get here."
However, Adkins said she only spent 15 minutes at the event because she preregistered online with Food for Florida, allowing her to go through a much shorter line.
"What a difference," she said. "We walked past hundreds and hundreds of people who hadn’t registered."
People who waited in the longer line said it took about a half an hour. They didn't mind the wait in order to get help.
"We really need it," said Benett Barrios, who drove to John Prince Park Wednesday morning from Jupiter because she lost power for five days, causing her to throw out a lot of food. "And there’s a lot of other people who need it too."
"We, Americans, we’ve got somebody here who cares for us," said Tony Dagher. "The organization and everything, I’m grateful. I can’t say anything bad."
DELRAY BEACH SITE BUSY AGAIN
Another site seeing a lot of traffic for disaster assistance is Lake Ida Park in Delray Beach. Lines started forming as early as 8 p.m. Tuesday.
At this site, people can walk or drive to sign up and receive help if they were impacted by Hurricane Irma.
Officials with the Department of Children and Families say things ran smoother Wednesday where both foot traffic and cars were allowed inside.
To accommodate the crowds, extra staff was brought in to guide people and help those with special needs. Georgiann Fell of Pompano Beach drove from Broward County to apply for assistance. She was pleased with the way things were being handled.
"They’ve been really nice to us and I appreciate it, I really do, because I was at my wits end," Fell said.
Fell's refrigerator broke after Hurricane Irma and she says she lost all the food she had.
"I buy meat in bulk, and then I break it down for the days we’re going to need it and I lost everything."
Even though people with last names that start G-J were asked to come Wednesday, DCF says they are not turning people away.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The program is not for people who are not currently on food stamps but suffered some type of loss during Hurricane Irma.
On Tuesday, people walked away with EBT cards worth hundreds of dollars, but officials say pack your patience and prepare to wait hours.
Residents impacted by Irma can pre-register online to make the process much faster.
Those who visit any of the three sites can expect periodic closures throughout the day as sites became full. The sites will then reopen after crowds decrease.
More Than 2 Million Receive Federal Food Assistance
The Florida Department of Children and Families said Tuesday that more than 2.2 million Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma received federal food assistance through the federal United States Department of Agriculture Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
DCF has processed more than 577,000 DSNAP applications that meet the federal requirements and more than $836 million in federal food assistance has been distributed between DSNAP and SNAP supplements across Florida.
The state said this will help more than six million Floridians through SNAP and DSNAP get back on their feet.
DCF said they have deployed more than 6,000 staff to assist in operations and administration of this federal program, including nearly 1,500 temporary workers, to Food for Florida sites to process applications at 48 sites across 39 counties.
DCF is requesting approval from the USDA to extend DSNAP operations in all Florida counties going forward beyond the standard seven-day operation.
In addition to Disaster SNAP, DCF applied for federal food assistance program waivers and provided:
- Early release of food assistance benefits prior to Hurricane Irma making landfall to help families prepare
- Hot Foods Waiver, and a subsequent extension, to allow families to purchase prepared food with their EBT cards at participating retailers
- Extended the time frame to report food loss from 10 to 20 days
- Mass food assistance replacement benefits for September SNAP recipients in 52 counties effected by Hurricane Irma
- Extended October SNAP recertification deadlines for three months