Following criticism, DCF adds DSNAP operations in Florida as part of Hurricane Irma relief

Thousands of eligible Floridians are still waiting to get their food stamp benefits following Hurricane Irma.

It’s why Sen. Bill Nelson wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the deadline to apply.

Sen. Nelson criticized the Department of Children and Families for not having enough personnel at application sites leading to long lines.

With many homes losing power for extended periods of time, the USDA approved food stamp benefits for 48 counties including Duval.

Sen. Nelson said DCF estimated that nearly $2.5 million households would apply for benefits but less than a million applications have been processed so far.

Friday, DCF issued a press release announcing its now processed more than one million applications for disaster food assistance.

“If you're a person who is living from pay check to pay check you are entitled to extra food assistance that is this DSNAP program and yet it is being handled so poorly,” said Nelson.

In the days following the storm, many people stood in line for hours and were turned away when the response became too overwhelming.

With deadlines to apply quickly approaching, Nelson wrote a letter to the USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, to give Floridians more time.

Nelson said the initial roll out, reflects badly on the program.

“It's a reflection of somebody in the state of Florida that runs the program even though it's funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture so I’ll just leave it at that,” said Nelson.

According to DCF, the final DSNAP sites will open in Pasco County on Nov. 5 and in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Nov. 7.

DCF has also sent a request to the USDA to waive the in-person interview requirements for the elderly and disabled. It’s asked for phone interviews to be allowed through the customer call center on Nov. 11-12.

DCF said it has distributed more than $1.3 billion in federal disaster food assistance in response to Hurricane Irma to more than 7 million Floridians.