ALACHUA COUNTY, FL - The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners have agreed to provide a one-time emergency allocation of $14,973 to the state DC&F (Department of Children & Families), to provide funds for a local hotline to answer questions about applying for Food Stamp Benefits (now named SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The local phone number is 352-955-5338. It will be in operation through June 30, 2009. The County Commission hopes that, by the end of June, the State of Florida will either provide funding for a local number, or improve their call center system.
This action was taken to assist local residents who want to apply for Food Stamps. Phoning the statewide call center is currently the only way to speak to DCF about applying for Food Stamp benefits. Only about 24% of calls made actually get answered due to the call center’s huge volume of calls and inadequate staffing. It is believed that only about 55% of residents eligible for Food Stamp benefits receive them.
Over 21,000 Alachua County residents currently receive Food Stamp benefits, but another 17,000 to 18,000 residents are eligible. If all eligible residents received Food Stamp benefits, Florida Impact, Inc. (a non-profit food assistance research firm in Tallahassee) estimates that an additional $18,000,000 would be spent in Alachua County each year for nutritional assistance. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that for every dollar in Food Stamp expenditure in a county, there is a $1.84 in economic impact created. Thus, even if the county only increases the number of eligible residents who actually receive benefits by 20% (increase the percent of eligible residents receiving benefits from 55% to 75%) the projected economic development impact within the county would be in the range of $6 million to $8 million in additional food assistance. The projected overall local economic impact would be in the range of $11 million to $14 million.
DC&F will report quarterly to the County commission regarding the use of the local phone number and the number of new applications assisted through this effort.