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Non-profit sounds alarm on SNAP portal issue preventing most vulnerable from getting help

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Editor’s note: The Florida Department of Children and Families has clarified that those who are only applying for SNAP do not need an account. This information has been shared with Matthew’s Hope.

Despite hundreds of people who have reported glitches with a new SNAP and Medicaid application portal, the Florida Department of Children and Families blames “User Error.”

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We’ve shown you video of glitches filmed by several who have reported document upload issues with the portal, as well as the disconnecting phone lines that have made it difficult for some applicants to complete interviews needed to verify their claims.

Yet, one Orange County Non-profit told Channel 9 for some of the most vulnerable, the issues begin before they even get in front of a computer.

Amid a homeless crisis, Matthew’s Hope Ministries said since December 5th, only 3 of their homeless clients have successfully applied and received SNAP benefits.

Holly Norris helps homeless clients at Matthew’s Hope Ministries complete clerical work.

Norris explained under the previous system, just a username and password were needed to apply for SNAP benefits.

However, since the MyACCESS portal launched in December, every account must be linked to a functioning email.

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The problem: emails now force you to use two-factor authentication, and many homeless applicants don’t have cell phones.

Norris said it means her clients cannot get past creating a MyACCESS account.

Channel 9 watched as Norris had to turn away a homeless man who was trying to apply for SNAP.

“I couldn’t make that work for him because he’s homeless. He thinks he has a Gmail, but he doesn’t know the password,” said Norris.

The man was sent away with homework and told to find a cellphone, create and verify a new email, and then report back to the nonprofit to start the SNAP application process.

“When he leaves here he’s not thinking about the email, he’s thinking that he’s hungry,” said Norris.

On Tuesday, DCF sent Channel 9 a statement saying it believes some complaints are unique to Matthews Hope Ministries, and that “some issues may occur via user error.”

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In the days since advocates have cast doubt on that statement.

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.

On Thursday, Brito told Channel 9 she was skeptical of the claim that issues are “user-driven.” She continued to call for transparency and accountability from DCF.

In various social media posts by Brito, hundreds have commented sharing their experience.

“I have called for my interview 16 times, and I left several messages with the number on my letter… no response. Then I call the main number and when it says it is going to transfer me to a representative, I get disconnected every single time,” said one Facebook user.

“The system must be flawed because they request for things that have already been uploaded in the system,” said another Facebook user.

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, 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 caseworker 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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