PLANT CITY, Fla. – Hurricane Irma hit Tampa Bay more than one month ago, but some area families continue to take a hit to their bottom line following the storm.
Now, financial relief is available to those who qualify.
Through the Department of Children and Families, in partnership with the USDA and FEMA, families that normally would not qualify for food stamps, can apply to receive assistance through a program called 'Food for Florida.'
“For many of them, they’ve been managing," said program manager Nichole Solomon. "Some of them have had to make some really hard choices about how they were going to feed their families and making choices between paying their mortgage, their daycare, or supplying food for their family.”
People tried to apply outside of Plant City Stadium, the 'Food for Florida' site for Hillsborough County, and were lined up in vehicles for miles down the road Sunday.
Oulayvone Chanthanam of Tampa said she waited for 12 hours with her two-year-old son to get inside.
"We got here at 5:00 (in the morning)," she said, speaking to 10News at around 5:30 Sunday evening.
However, many families told 10News that once they got past the long wait outside, the application process inside only took minutes.
"The cars backed up, that’s the longest wait," said Trinee Jones. "After we got in and parked, it was like 10 minutes."
Jones said she and her mother tried to apply on Saturday but didn't expect the long line. They opted to come back on Sunday.
"It’s great that it’s being offered, but I definitely was surprised at how many people came out," she said.
On Saturday alone, about 8,000 people applied for assistance in Hillsborough County, Solomon told 10News.
Since the site opened on Thursday, Solomon estimated roughly 30,000 families had applied to receive temporary food stamps. She said crews were prepared for even more in the coming days.
"At our highest estimates we could potentially see more than 100,000 people," Solomon said. "There are potentially more than 100,000 people in Hillsborough County who could be eligible for this benefit.”
The 'Food for Florida' site in Hillsborough County is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Tuesday. Officials are encouraging people to pre-register online before arriving in person to expedite the process. Click here to register online.
Families who qualify—based on income and other disaster-related expenses, like proof of loss of food or missed work—can receive two months of food assistance. Amounts vary based on household size.
Those currently on food assistance do not qualify.
Here’s where you can apply for the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program:
- Oct. 5-10 (7am-6pm): Plant City Stadium, 1810 E. Park Road, Plant City
- Oct. 13-16 (7am-6pm): Westfield Sarasota Square, 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
- Oct. 14-17 (7am-6pm): RP Funding Building, 701 Lime Street, Lakeland
- Oct. 15-16 (7am-6pm): Desoto Square Mall, 303 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton
- Oct. 22-24 (7am-6pm): Land O'Lakes Rec Center, 3302 Collier Pkwy., Land O'Lakes
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