The mandate was issued without a previous announcement from the Department of Children and Families or from the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
FLORIDA — As many businesses in Florida shut down indefinitely or closed for good due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Floridians lost their jobs and saw their income disappear or greatly reduced. This left many with no other option than to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, as it is most commonly known.
Almost every state in the nation saw a marked increase in people applying for assistance through SNAP, but the severe coronavirus economic fallout hit the Sunshine State especially hard; to date, while the country saw a 17% increase in people applying for food stamps in three months, Florida reported a whopping 36% increase. And if Congress doesn’t extend the federal unemployment benefit of an additional $600 a week, the numbers could rise, as millions of people currently receiving unemployment could qualify for SNAP.
Under pre-pandemic rules, Florida’s SNAP requires adults 18 to 49 without physical or mental disabilities to spend at least 80 hours a month working, looking for work, or volunteering, with possible exemptions for pregnant women, the homeless, or those who care for a child or an incapacitated adult. But due to the growing coronavirus pandemic across the country, on April 1 the work requirements were suspended nationally.
But at the beginning of July, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), the agency that administers the federally funded government benefit, resumed work requirements for SNAP recipients.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the DCF instituted the mandate for new food-stamp applicants and the rest will be phased in, “although the timing and basis for the phases remain unclear,” the paper reported.
This was carried out without a previous announcement from the DCF, or any word from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Despite numerous requests for comments from lawmakers and nonprofit leaders, both the governor’s office and the CDC have not issued news releases nor answered inquiries on the subject.
Consequently, as work opportunities continue to dry up, the mandate has left many Floridians wondering what the future holds for them.
Where to Find Help
If you are not eligible, or no longer qualify for SNAP benefits, there are alternatives:
- Feeding Florida, the state’s network of food banks working to provide nutrition for people and families.
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): You may receive nutritional foods if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have children under 5 years of age.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): If you are over 60, you may be eligible for USDA food supplements.
- Farmers to Families Food Box Program: A USDA launched food box program that pays food producers who would normally supply the restaurant industry to send boxes of food to families in need. There are no income requirements. The boxes will be distributed in July and August. Find out what non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or food banks in your area are participating.
Back to Work Programs
With employment opportunities getting harder to find during the pandemic, many SNAP recipients opt to participate in the SNAP Reemployment Assistance Programs that are accessible online for free, in the hope that it can help them spruce up their skills, create a resume and, maybe, find work.
This story originally published on The Americano.