Pasco County commissioners don’t want a replay of the overwhelming crowds and hours-long
waits that hampered efforts in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for residents seeking to qualify for disaster food relief following Hurricane Irma’s destruction.
So, on Oct. 16, Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles prepared to send a letter to the Florida Department of Family and Children Services cancelling plans for a similar event scheduled at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center.
The four-day event had been slated to begin on Oct. 22.
Pasco officials now are scouting for a different location, and will work with local DCF officials to identify a more suitable site, said Biles.
Per the agreement, either party can terminate upon three days prior written notice.
As of Oct. 16, about 11,000 people had pre-registered online to participate in the emergency food program, Biles said.
The challenge is finding a large building with sufficient parking in a location that is accessible, he said.
“We (Pasco County) don’t have a location for that,” Biles said.
The better option likely is finding a private property that would meet those requirements, he added.
County commissioners were scheduled to hold a workshop on Oct. 17 in Dade City, with discussion of the emergency food program an added topic. The meeting was scheduled after publication deadlines for The Laker/Lutz News.
County commissioners reluctantly approved the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center for the federal relief program on Oct. 10.
Their approval came only after an unsuccessful try
to move the emergency food program to a vacant Super Target store, at State Road 54 and Suncoast Parkway.
That didn’t happen because the owner told county staff that the store needs repairs that could not be completed in time.
“So, that’s out of the loop,” Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said during the Oct. 10 meeting.
Moore and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey both indicated that the Target store would be better able to handle a high volume of traffic.
They also voiced concerns that a crush of vehicles and people at the recreation center would slow work commutes and recreational activities scheduled in the afternoon.
A Florida Department of Children and Families official estimated up to 82,000 people could show up to the site during the four-day period.
The Land O’ Lakes Branch Library and several schools also are along Collier Parkway.
Before Biles cancelled the use of the recreation center site, county staff members and DCF officials had been working on plans to limit disruptions at the recreation center.
State workers processing the applications were planning to park their vehicles at a vacant Kmart store on State Road 54. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office had agreed to assist with traffic.
Pasco commissioners had been told that the 6 p.m. closing time would be met to keep from interfering with regular activities at the center.
Ongoing reports of problems at other sites around the Tampa Bay area also had heightened Pasco officials concerns.
The Food for Florida program is administered by DCF in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Residents can qualify based on income and losses.
People who currently recei
ve food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, aren’t eligible. Instead, they will be compensated with extra benefits through the monthly program.
For eligible applicants, Disaster-SNAP, or D-SNAP debit-style cards will be issued if the applicant lived or worked in one of the 48 declared federal disaster counties from Sept. 5 to Oct. 4.
Those qualifying can receive assistance for the months of September and October.
For information, visit Dcf.state.fl.us/programs/access
Published Oct. 18, 2017