There is still a chance for some people to sign up for D-SNAP disaster food assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Originally, registration for D-SNAP — short for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — required an in-person interview. But hundreds of thousands of hopeful applicants statewide showed up looking for help paying for food staples after damage or other losses due to the hurricane. Lines grew hours long and prohibitive for many, according to a lawsuit against the state and federal governments which together run the D-SNAP program.
Now, some elderly and people with disabilities who were not able to stand in hours-long lines will have the opportunity to phone in their registration if they pre-registered by Nov. 9.
The Florida Department of Children and Families administers the D-SNAP program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which ultimately calls the shots. The suit is being brought by a coalition of community organizations including the Miami Workers Center and the University of Miami Health Rights Clinic.
During an emergency hearing earlier this month, the federal government agreed to consider allowing telephone interviews for the elderly and disabled who pre-registered. Phone interviews with those individuals will be held on Dec. 2 and 3.
The suit will likely continue, though, for the larger class of individuals who were not able to pre-register or who do not have an officially recognized disability and were not able to go in-person to get food assistance.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro from the bench strongly encouraged both sides to reach an agreement about an outstanding portion of the emergency filing, which they were able to do, after some curt words from the judge.
“Have we thought about anything other than [the Department of Children and Family’s] own interest?,” said Ungaro after the DCF lawyer suggested the two sides were at an impasse.
To move forward, the petitioners will have to define who exactly falls into the class of people who were not able to sign up for D-SNAP and who have a right to relief, an “enormous practical problem,” according to Ungaro.