DCF food assistance: South Florida economic vulnerability exposed

DCF food assistance

Economic vulnerability of South Florida families exposed by DCF Food Assistance

Over the past three weeks the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in response to the needs of Florida residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has distributed more over $1.156 billion in federal disaster food assistance through the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP).  As of October 24, DCF processed 891,927 applications for food stamps under the program. According to the agency this assistance will help more than 7 million Floridians as they continue to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma.

Shocked at massive response

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The DCF publicly admitted to being shocked at the massive response for food assistance. In the South Florida tri-county region over 530,000 individuals received assistance ranging from  $300 for a single person to as high as $1,300 for a family of four.

In Broward and Miami-Dade, the DCF food assistance program was extended over a four-day period. Each day DCF distributors were overwhelmed by the long lines of individuals who turned up for assistance. The crowds were so overwhelming that in both counties distribution had to be disbanded temporarily as the crowds became disorderly. In fact, when the initial period of distribution was concluded in both counties on Sunday, October 15, thousands of people who had been in line for hour were left disappointed.

To recommence program in Broward and Miami-Dade

DCF has since announced it will be recommencing the program in Broward and Miami-Dade, but the actual dates and locations for the distribution are yet to be announced. The department says it is working closely with local government and law enforcement to secure sites that can safely and efficiently serve all residents in need.

“Socialism gone mad”

There have been criticisms that the program was too liberal. One critic referred to it as “socialism gone mad.” The reason for the criticism is that the assistance was available to people of all economic groups. DCF did establish income guidelines for the assistance, but it was available to all who incurred food loss, and not normally eligible for food stamps, as a result of extended electricity outage caused by the hurricanes. However, those with lower incomes were eligible for a higher quota of food stamps than those with higher incomes.

Nonetheless, the critics drew attention that those who joined the lines for food stamps included people driving high-end cars mingling with people who came to the respective distribution centers on foot.

Family economic vulnerability exposed

Speaking to DCF administers of the DSNAP, it appeared attempts were made to make food assistance as equitable as possible across income groups. However, what the high demand for assistance exposed is that the majority of South Floridians are living on the periphery of economic disaster, no matter what they drive or where there live.

Research conducted by United Way in 2015 indicated that 48.3 percent of South Floridians are living just above poverty level, not earning enough to be financial stable. Although it often sounds like a cliché, some 50 percent of Florida families are literally living from pay-check-to-pay-check.

Genuine need for assistance

People lost days’ and weeks’ wages resulting from the impact of the hurricane, and were severely affected. Such people were in genuine need of the DCF food assistance. And, so were those who although they may not have lost wages, saw the opportunity of receiving food stamps which were offered to cover a period of three months, too much of a gift to not suffer standing in a line n broiling sun and hate for up to 10-hours. People genuinely needed the assistance, because the region’s average monthly disposable income, the income left after all the inescapable expenses are met monthly is around 2 percent average. Thousands simply cannot make ends meet.

Need to re-evaluate federal, Florida wage policies

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma blatantly exposed what was already known in South Florida. Wages are much too low for even so-called middle-income families to frown on public assistance. This is a blatant reason to raise wages in Florida to a realistic living wage.  It is too risky, too economically vulnerable, for families to living totally dependent on each pay check, especially when the pay check is insufficient.

The long lines for DCF food assistance gives reason for the federal and Florida’s government to seriously focus on amending the federal and state wage policies.

For previous article on DCF food assistance, click the link: Food Assistance Guidelines by Florida DCF