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DCF: “User error” to blame for portal issues impacting hundreds applying for state benefits

ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s been little resolution for hundreds of people in need of benefits from the state, because of issues with a system that has been in place for nearly three months.

The new MyACCESS application portal launched on December 5th and was supposed to be more user friendly.

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However,  since its launch,  Channel 9 has showed you longlines for in-person requests, online glitches, and overwhelmed call lines. 

Channel 9 first reached out to the Department of Children and Families on January 10th, about reported issues.

At the time DCF denied that any issues existed and said the portal was successfully launched.

However, in the months since, hundreds of Central Floridians have lost SNAP and Medicaid benefits or never got them at all because of systemwide glitches.

Local non-profit Matthew’s Hope Ministries said their SNAP services have come to a standstill as a result.

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“If anyone has a back-door into the state system, or knows someone that can get these people fed. Please I’m all ears at this point,” said Holly Norris with Matthew’s Hope Ministries.

The non-profit provides outreach for the homeless as well as hot meals, showers, and other social services.

Norris said in the last few months, only 3 of her clients have been able to get through for phone interviews which are often needed to verify someone’s SNAP claims.

Despite contacting DCF directly, and attempting to become a Community Partner, Norris said there has been little progress.

“I have to convey to these homeless people why it’s not working and all they know is that they’re hungry,” Norris said.

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Meanwhile, community activist Vanessa Brito has several excel sheets documenting close to a thousand people impacted by portal issues ranging from problems uploading documents to not being able to connect with representatives for necessary phone interviews.

“I’m having to send almost periodically, every two days list of claimants who are encountering issues,” said Brito.

Brito said time and time again, people have self-reported the same issues with the portal.

She has gotten help for some of those impacted by working through contacts at DCF but said she has gotten zero answers on a systemwide fix.

“There’s just so many things that they can do to mitigate what’s happening,” said Brito, “There has to be some acknowledgement and some transparency on their part.”

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Since WFTV’s first email to DCF in January, we have sent over a dozen emails to the state pressing the agency about what it is doing to fix this, and how we should direct those in need.

In over a months’ time, the agency failed to respond to any of those inquiries with any new details.

Instead, DCF had only said, they’re working on our request.

After contacting DCF on Tuesday, the agency sent a new statement explaining that some complaints are unique to Matthew’s Hope Ministries and that issues may occur “via user error” in other cases.

The Department also said they were fully staffed to process applications and receive calls.

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The full statement from DCF spokesperson Mallory McManus is below:

“It is our belief that these complaints are unique to this organization. Some issues may occur via user error, but DCF is adequately staffed to receive calls and help process applications.

Since the launch of the enhanced system in early December:

  • More than 1.8 million documents have been uploaded successfully.
  • A 175% increase in cases were processed without having to request additional information or contact the recipient.
  • There has been a 20% reduction in the number of duplicate applications received.

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If someone is having difficulty uploading documents, they can contact our dedicated line at: 833-912-2575. They can also notify us in writing using the form on our website located here: https://www.myflfamilies.com/contact-us/dcf-inquiry and someone will call them back to provide assistance.

Not everyone who completes an application needs to do an interview. If the individual is pending an interview there is a direct phone number to a case worker on their pending notice to complete the interview. If they were awaiting an interview and contact the call center from 7am to 6pm, they are automatically transferred an agent to complete the interview.

Additionally, our vacancy rate for those answering the phones is less than 5 percent, and the Department has hired an additional 125 call center agents.

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