More than $1 billion in federal pandemic food aid will start hitting needy families’ electronic benefits transfer cards starting Nov. 15, according to an application that the state Department of Children and Families submitted Thursday.
The state has 2.7 million children who qualify for the food aid payment, which will amount to $375 per child. Three payments that add up to the full payment will be issued over 30 days beginning in mid-November, according to the application DCF provided Friday afternoon.
“Florida is working to expedite the timeline as quickly as possible,” said Mallory McManus, DCF spokeswoman.
Florida was one of the last to apply for the aid that comes with no strings attached and became available in April, however. And the delay in getting it to families became a fierce talking point for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running to replace Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022.
She sent a letter publicly calling for him to fill out the application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 25.
“I’m relieved that Florida families will finally be able to access this benefit to help them afford food for their kids,” Fried said in a prepared statement issued late Friday. “It’s a shame that it took weeks of effort from my department and anti-hunger advocates across the state to convince Governor DeSantis to do something so easy that will help so many families.”
Initially, the Governor’s Office had said the aid was not needed.
Unlike some other states, Florida’s schools were open for in-person schooling, where free and reduced-price lunches are served, said Christina Pushaw, the Governor’s spokesperson. She also said needy children could have received food at Summer BreakSpots, which Fried’s department provides.
DCF’s spokesperson said that the application for Florida’s families to get the direct payments was undertaken at last, “to address any possible gaps left by the Summer Breakspot program.”
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said that the Summer BreakSpots this past summer were more numerous and fed more children than in the past.
While an average summer sees 14 to 16 million meals served at the spots, the department was able to serve 18.5 million meals and opened 1,400 more meal sites across the state, according to a news release.
The application announced Friday may not be the last that Fried is talking about food aid payments.
“My department and I are now eagerly awaiting his (DeSantis’) application for the nutrition aid that is available for this current school year,” she said.