Preparing For the Florida Food Stamps Phone Interview

 

Once you’ve applied on My Access, for Florida Food Stamps, you will receive a letter containing important paperwork that needs to be sent for an upcoming phone interview.  The phone interview must transpire in one week.  You must call between the hours of 8:oo am and 5:00 pm.  Do be sure to call just a few minutes before 8 am to ensure your wait time is short.  Don’t worry, you will not have to wait long if you experienced the Call Center recently there is a different number issued for this.  These first time calls are imperative to DCF to determine if you are eligible or ineligible so they will be answered quickly.  Should you not be able to complete this interview in a time specified, you will receive a letter stating you are ineligible for food stamps and Medicaid.  The phone interview is very important, and correct paperwork will ensure this move effortlessly. 

 

Before you make your call, go to My Access and upload the information you gave DCF on your initial application so you have it handy.  Take time to go to Benefit Status and pull up your application you first filed.  Print it out, or keep the screen up while you talk to your case manager.  This will allow you to easily answer any questions that are asked. Most of the questions will center on initial information that was given on the website when you first applied.  Most importantly, write down any questions you have.  This is the perfect time to get these answered as you may have issues calling the Call Center later. 

 

Do keep your questions for the end of the interview and let your case manager know in the beginning that you have questions regarding your case.  Once you are done with the phone interview, you will be allotted time to ask questions that remain unanswered.  So relax, take a deep breath, and it will be over in about 10 – 15 minutes!

 


What Happens After You Apply For Florida Food Stamps

You’ve just applied for Florida Food Stamps, and now the wait begins.  What next?  Being new to the system can be especially frightening.  Just knowing that you have a family that relies on you for basic needs, adds a whole new dimension to fear.  You have little time to plan your own new course because others depend on you.  Check out helpful tips below making life a bit easier.

If you submitted your eligibility online, you will receive a letter in 7 – 10 days.  It states clearly at the top Notice of Case Action.  Don’t be unsettled by this term.  This letter merely states that they received your application, and require more information.  Do understand, that you may receive several of these letters before you are approved.  You are NOT the first person that will not receive financial aid immediately.  Don’t give up! The approval process can take 15 -30 days.  Furthermore, f they are behind, it could take up to 45 days.  Regretfully, this is not helpful when you are running out of food.

In the middle of the letter (in complete caps) is the information requested.  Find this information immediately!  You can mail it to the above address or FAX it.  If your letter states you must see a child support official, do so quickly or you will be denied.  Being timely is important, remember you have a time frame to complete this information, and it is usually less than a week.  The final date of information acceptance is ALWAYS in this letter.  Failure to comply on this date will cause denial of benefits.

Log onto: My Access, and using your new case number, open up an account.  You will be able to view information they receive.  You won’t see much in denial or eligibility, but you can keep a track of the information they receive.  I chose to FAX information as it is usually recorded the following day.

Then the waiting game begins.  Do not look into the “verification needed” section too much.  This information is definitely an overload.  Being computer savvy, I sent in everything but the kitchen sink - according to “verification needed”.  This didn’t help my case any, and I was still missing information requested on DCF’s letters.  Items that I was positive I sent in initially.

Don’t be surprised if you receive another letter requiring more information.  Keep sending in this  information until they stop sending you these letters.  Soon you will receive a letter of determination.  Don’t be surprised if you are denied despite your income.  You did the prescreening, you know you are eligible, it is time to take a stand!  Locate your nearest DCF Food Stamps Assistant office and make a visit your top priority.  They open at 8 a.m.  Don’t come then, be there at 7:30 a.m., standing at the front door to be the first in line for the “phones”.   Realize at this point the call center is useless.   You will spend hours on the phone trying to get through.  Don’t put your self through this anguish.

There are no more caseworkers locally.  They are all in Jacksonville at this point, so you must talk to a representative on the phone.  State your case number, ask why you are denied, and ask for your case to be reopened. Ask the case worker why you were denied, and what you can do to remedy this.  Be sure to ask if this is all they need to reopen your case. Ask them to explain the EXACT steps you need to take to submit this information. Many have been denied on simple technicalities.  Don’t assume you know what is being stated.  There is a system in place here that most of can’t even begin to comprehend.

You’ll be upset to hear this will take an additional 15-30 days.  But, being here reading this information, will make acceptance a bit easier.


First Day Alone

I applied for food stamps on 6/27/11. I had waited over a full month from the time I was dislocated from my position as an administrator of a school. I waited because food stamps mandates that you have no more than $2000 in your savings. The process took only 20 min. online. If you are in Florida, all you need to do is go to My Access and fill out an online application.  Once you submit it, it can take anywhere from 15-30 days until you receive your first letter in the mail containing information you’ll need to mail or FAX.  I suggest faxing information as they will retrieve it quickly and you can check your account to ensure its been received.  When you are in a situation such like this, the last thing you need is to be waiting on someone’s certification to feed your family.

If you are unsure if you are income eligible you can take the easy Prescreening Tool.  This will tell you what type of assistance you are eligible for.

The following, taken from DCF’s website lists eligibility rules:

Eligibility Requirements

Individuals must pass all eligibility rules to get food assistance benefits. Some of the eligibility rules are:

  • Identity – Individuals must show proof they are the person they claim to be. Applicants must provide proof of their identity.
  • Work Rules - Healthy adults, 18 to 50 years of age, who do not have dependent children or are not pregnant, can only get food assistance benefits for 3 months in a 3-year period, if they are not working or participating in a work or workfare program.
  • Income and Deductions – Most households must pass a gross income limit at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Households with a member disqualified for breaking Food Assistance Program rules, felony drug trafficking, running away from a felony warrant, or not participating in a work program must meet a gross income test at 130% of the FPL. Households with or without a disqualified member must have net income less than 100% of the FPL. Households with people who are, age 60 or older or disabled must only meet the net monthly income limit. Some household expenses may be subtracted from the total monthly income in the food assistance budget. The budget may subtract for shelter expenses, dependent care, medical, child support paid, standard deductions, and earnings.
  • Residency – Individuals must live in the state of Florida.
  • Citizenship - Individuals must be a U.S. citizen or have a qualified noncitizen status.
  • SSN – Individuals must provide a Social Security Number or proof they have applied for one.
  • Child Support cooperation – Certain individuals must cooperate with the state’s child support enforcement agency to prove a child’s legal relationship to their parent and to get the court to order child support payments.
  • Assets –  Most food assistance households may have assets such as vehicles, bank accounts, or property and still get help. Households with a disqualified member must meet an asset limit of $2,000 or $3,250 effective October 1, 2011(if the household contains an elderly or disabled member).

Ineligibility Reasons:

People who are convicted of drug trafficking, who are running away from a felony warrant, who break Food Assistance Program rules on purpose, who are noncitizens without a qualified status, and some students in colleges or universities are not eligible for food assistance benefits.

Foods You Can Buy With Food Assistance Benefits

Households can use food assistance benefits to buy breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. Households cannot use food assistance benefits to buy nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, food to eat in the store, or hot foods.

SUNCAP

The SUNCAP Program is a special Food Assistance Program for individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You may be eligible to receive food assistance benefits through the SUNCAP Program without any additional application, paperwork, or interviews. If you already receive food assistance benefits in the regular Food Assistance Program, you may be automatically put in the SUNCAP Program when you become SSI eligible. If your food assistance benefits will go down, because of SUNCAP, you may choose to continue receiving your food assistance under the regular Food Assistance Program.



Trying to Get Food Assistance Can Be Harder Than Ever!

 

Being a professional and out of work in a failing economy is enough to make your skin crawl most days. Each day is spent sending out resume after resume, usually online, never knowing if that written biography of your life, the one you worked hours on, even met the hands of the human resource department before being tossed in the waste basket. Realistically, today there are hundreds of people applying for each new position, and it’s common knowledge that most of those resumes won’t make it past the clerk. Couple that with the fact you must have more than one resume on hand these days for all various job board postings, and you have a recipe for emotional disaster. To add insult to injury, these online submissions require 30-40 min for each new posting and must be accompanied with a fresh new cover letter.

 
You’d think that at least while you are job searching endlessly, your state entitled benefits would be of assistance. After all, you paid into the system for years while others used it, and now it is your turn; you need it. Not so. Before you know it, you are bombarded with endless requests, information you sent and thought should be clear in its own right, is accepted and then rejected. Before you can catch your breath in this new found dilemma, you are spending exhorbitant amounts of time faxing, calling, sending letters to appease a determining caseworker. At times nothing seems sufficient. You are approved, then more Determination Case Letters meet your mailbox requesting further information before your case is discontinued. You spend more time faxing, calling in information you thought was already submitted to a call center that doesn’t answer – for days. This waste of precious job search time is spent trying to receive a paultry amount of EBT assigned to you and your family.
 
Do you know how many complaint boards on DCF Florida Food Stamps can be found? An enormous amount! If you are reading this letter you are one of the tens of thousands that are being treated the same manner! You know for a fact the call center is useless because you’ve called it in a frenzy for days. You’ve even tried the online email system that never answers. You know there is only one possiblity to get through. You are forced to trump down to your local agency, wait in line for hours to use one of the two customer phones available to speak to a caseworker. Or, maybe you resigned to eating onion soup for days on end, and said, “The heck with it”. Nonetheless, precious hours and minutes that should have been devoted to job searching is wasted again.
 
 Take note of other plights, Karen from Florida writes, “The Florida Department of Children and Families’ ACCESS website should be disabled as well as the ACCESS toll-free number. It is at an expense to tax payers to maintain the website and the toll-free number and both, especially the ACCESS toll-free number, are practically useless. There is not any contact or email address on the website to assist one if you have a problem other than the listed ones. You can not reach a live person at all on the 800 number. I have a simple problem. I need my case number. I can not access any information with out it and I can not get anyone to help me get it. I am homebound, as many, many others that receive assistance are. This long-standing issue needs to be brought to the attention of our law makers as it is a gross misuse and mismanagment of tax payers dollars. I actual feel the the FDCF is intentionally making it as difficult as possible to receive assistance so that perhaps people will be discouraged and not apply or give up.”
 
Another frustrated individual, S. Lynne, writes, “I am a professional who cannot secure a job due to the horrendous economy in Florida & therefore had to apply for food stamp assistance. My worker has proved completely unprofessional & incompetent and the agency (DCF Food Stamp Assistance) has proved completely unresponsive to my inquiries. Despite having met the criteria for expeditied foodstamps and having completed an interview and provided the requested information, my case worker failed to remove the hold from my account which caused me to lose all of my July Food Stamp benefits. I’ve called my worker, Jarvis Greene, more than 7 times and he has not returned any of my phone calls, despite previously stating to me that all he had to do was ‘change my information’ in the system to remove the hold status on my account since he had received all of the necessary verification information he requested from me. Initially, he actually refused to provide me with his name & was only able to find it out by leaving all of the phone messages requesting he contact me, on his office answering machine. I’ve also sent a complaint and request for appeal to DCF ACCESS customer service center and received absolutly no response. If anyone has any idea of how to get the attention on these incompetent civil servant or even better, whom ever they have to account to if anyone, I would sincerely appreciate it. I wouldn’t be applying for food stamps unless I desperately needed them, which is humiliating enough, but to be treated so dismissively by people who are paid by my taxes is not tolerable. Thank God I don’t have children to feed and do have family to help me otherwise I would be at a soup kitchen.” The local system complaint boards are inundated with these types of pleas.
 
Applying for Food Stamps is an embarrassement at times in its own right, but it is more of an embarrassement when you can’t feed those you love most. If you are experiencing the same, make your voice heard!
 
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