Florida SNAP recipients continue to report delays in getting food assistance benefits

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Last month, 8 On Your Side reported a backlog of food assistance benefits. It got a huge response from viewers who told us it’s a much bigger issue than most people realize.

At this time, we are keeping up the pressure on the state to ensure Tampa Bay area residents get the benefits they need.

Yolanda Harrison’s day started at 5:30 a.m. She met 8 On Your Side in a parking lot in Tampa after finishing a shift at the warehouse.

“You work to put food on the table but just need that extra help?” asked investigative journalist Mahsa Saeidi.

“Yeah, and I actually want a table of my own,” Yolanda said.

Yolanda lost her home in 2016. The mother, who has four children aged 17 to 24, is staying with a friend of a friend.

“I have to go to church to eat sometimes and I’m not ashamed of it, I mean, that’s what homelessness is like,” she said.

Food bank trips began after Yolanda’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits ended.

Like hundreds of others, Yolanda tells 8 On Your Side, she applied for renewal of benefits, but the application is buried in a backlog.

“November 21…that’s the last time I received them,” she said.

In Florida, the federal initiative is managed by the Department of Children and Families.

8 On Your Side wanted to know what was being done to address the backlog. So we asked to speak to DCF secretary Shevaun Harris.

We have not heard back regarding an interview.

8 On Your Side also requested an interview with Assistant Secretary for Economic Self-Sufficiency Maggie Mickler, directly responsible for SNAP administration, and DCF SunCoast Regional General Manager Frank Prado.

The agency did not agree to an interview regarding the backlog.

On Friday, a spokeswoman released a statement saying in part:

“We understand how critical these benefits are and are working diligently to ensure Floridians receive the help they need. The Department is dedicated to providing Florida families with nutritional support to those in need as they move toward self-sufficiency.

According to the release, initial requests are processed in about 17 days, on average.

But the delays reported by 8 On Your Side do not occur during the initial application process.

Families say the delays occur during the renewal process, known as recertification.

“It’s as if we were forgotten, when will we be remembered?” asked Yolanda. “But I still try to keep my faith at the highest…to ask him to guide my steps better. And I want to strive to improve myself, that’s all I want.

8 On Your Side will continue to work to help families secure their benefits.

If the agency has determined that you are eligible for benefits and you have waited more than 30 days for the application to be processed, email Mahsa at [email protected]

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