State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Charlie Crist
Governor

Robert A. Butterworth
Secretary


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Al Zimmerman
February 6, 2007 850-488-4855

SECRETARY BOB BUTTERWORTH VISITS DISASTER AREA

- The Secretary praises the efforts of Department employees in assisting tornado victims -


TALLAHASSEE - Florida Department of Children and Families' Secretary Bob Butterworth visited tornado-impacted areas in central Florida with Governor Charlie Crist today to evaluate the response and relief efforts of Department employees and volunteers and determine additional ways the Department can lend support.

         "Looking at the destruction and debris and talking with storm victims who lost everything reiterates the importance of our work and that the needs of these victims are very real," says Secretary Butterworth. "I'm proud of what our workers have been able to accomplish so far, but there's still much to be done. We will continue to work around the clock to make sure all of the victims who qualify for assistance receive it quickly."

         While representatives of the Department's economic self-sufficiency program, ACCESS Florida, are working in the most heavily damaged neighborhoods to provide assistance, they are also stationed at all five Disaster Recovery Centers (DCRs) in the central Florida area. Storm victims can apply for assistance in the form of food stamp benefits, Medicaid or temporary financial assistance all offered through the Department of Children and Families. The Department hopes to reach both impacted residents who qualified for benefits before the storm hit but never applied, and those who may now qualify due to a loss of income and assets.

         Immediately following the storm, Department staff worked to expedite the release of food stamp benefits to recipients in the impacted area so that any food lost during the disaster could immediately be replaced. The Department projects the early issuance of food stamp benefits has the potential to impact as many as 17,000 families with a total of $13 million in benefits.

         In addition to providing assistance through Department programs and services, employees of District 13 (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties) Children and Families volunteered throughout the weekend assisting first responders and providing meals to elders in impacted Lake and Sumter counties.

         Children and Families staff will continue to reach out to victims of this disaster and coordinate with sister agencies and Florida's volunteer and business communities to ensure impacted families are safe, healthy and that their basic needs met are met.

         For more information about the Florida Department of Children and Families visit http://www.state.fl.us/cf_web/


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