Massive lines and traffic congestion formed as the open enrollment events in Broward and Miami-Dade for the federal Disaster SNAP benefit food program related for residents affected by Hurricane Irma began Tuesday.
Thousands of people lined up for food assistance through the federal program called Food for Florida at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and the BB&T Center in Sunrise before the events began at 7 a.m. It's expected to last until 6 p.m.
Bags or personal items larger than 12 inches by 12 inches, backpacks, coolers and chairs will not be permitted inside and Hard Rock Stadium's clear bag policy will be in effect.
Traffic backups were reported as people flocked to both sporting venues in hopes of qualifying for food aid cards. The awards range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000. The payments depend on the family size, storm loss and income.
At both locations, those attending will be served by the first letter of their last name depending on the day: the Tuesday event will serve those with the last names from A through F; the Wednesday event will serve G through P; and the Thursday event will serve Q through Z.
The event was moved from county parks after large crowds overwhelmed officials last month. The Florida Department of Children and Families, which is running the event, said it has worked with the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Broward County Sheriff's Office and other non-governmental organizations and agencies to ensure the events at both locations run safely and efficiently.
The benefits, known as D-SNAP and formally the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provide food benefits to people affected by disasters. People who normally are not eligible for SNAP benefits may qualify for D-SNAP, depending on income.
The Florida Department of Children and Families encourages people to register online in advance.