Busy DCF phone lines tell SNAP applicants to “try again later” as need increases

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The only Orange County center specifically designated to help those applying for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid, is seeing lengthy lines of people desperately seeking help.


We first reported Wednesday about the hours-long line outside of Orange County’s Access Application Center on North Powers Drive.

The center provides computers, translation help, and personnel dedicated to help guide public assistance applicants.

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The line at the Orange County Access Application Center wrapped around the shopping plaza Tuesday, overflowed Wednesday, and was lengthy again Thursday.

When the center closed at 5pm, a big group still waiting in line was told to go home for the day.

The demand at the center is consistent with heightened demand seen at food pantries across 7 Central Florida Counties, according to Second Harvest Food Bank.

“This December, we are distributing 9% more food than we were last December. So, the partner agencies that we put food into are seeing an uptick in need for sure,” said Greg Higgerson, Chief Development Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank.

Higgerson also said Second Harvest Food Bank has tracked more people searching for local pantries via the food bank’s online food locator tool.

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According to Higgerson, monthly searches via the tool doubled from 2022 to 2023.

Meanwhile, multiple tipster’s told Eyewitness News that demand has been up at the Orange County Access Center for nearly two weeks now.

It has forced some who need help on pending applications to return multiple days in a row.

“You have to take off work to get something done and accomplished at the location,” said one woman who wanted to remain anonymous.

Some waiting in line told Eyewitness News they had no other option but to wait, since the state’s information phone line said agents were busy and disconnected their call.

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Eyewitness News verified that calls were disconnecting after attempting to contact agents with the Department of Children and Families for SNAP assistance on Wednesday.

An automated message told an Eyewitness News crew that all agents were busy assisting other callers.

“If you still require assistance from an agent please try your call again later,” said the message before the call was automatically disconnected.

A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families didn’t provide a reason for why people couldn’t get through over the phone, but said, “traffic patterns at storefronts vary throughout the week, especially following major holidays.”

That spokesperson added, the Department tries to reduce the line at storefronts as quickly as possible, and that lobby staff does help answer questions for those who wait.

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According to the Department, over 92 percent of the applications received by the Department of Children and Families are successfully submitted online through the portal.

The Department also said they launched a new online application system called “the MyACCESS system” in early December.

According to the Department, over 480,000 people have successfully applied for Medicaid, SNAP and other government assistance since the system launched.

The spokesperson said the new system has led to a 175 percent increase in cases processed without needing to request additional info from the recipients and a 20 percent reduction in duplicate applications.

Individuals can apply for assistance online here.

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Those seeking help on their SNAP application can also contact Second Harvest’s Travelling Benefits Team.

The team routinely visits different food pantries, libraries, or community center locations across Central Florida helping eligible individuals receive their benefits.

For more information about that team and how to get help contact Second Harvest Food Bank at 407-295-1066.

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