On Friday, June 20, Joanne Merritt and Linda Prior, representing the Beacon of H.O.P.E. on Pine Island, accepted an award for collecting the third most "High Achiever ACCESS" applications for 2013.
"The Beacon of H.O.P.E. is in a group that includes some very large charitable organizations," Merritt, coordinator, said. "We collected 335 applications for last year putting us in the top one third percentile out of the 165 locations that collect applications for food stamps, medicaid and cash assistance."
The Florida Department of Children and Families provides a service entitled "Automated Community Connection to Economic Self Sufficiency." The ACCESS Florida system allows customers to connect with their public assistance information 24/7. The Economic Self-Sufficiency Program helps to promote strong and economically self-sufficient communities by determining eligibility for food, cash and medical assistance for individuals and families on the road to economic recovery.
The Food Assistance Program helps people with low income buy healthy food. If your household passes the Food Assistance Program eligibility rules, the amount of food assistance benefits you get depends on the number of people in your household and how much money is left after certain expenses are deducted.
The Temporary Cash Assistance program provides cash assistance to families with children under the age of 18 or under age 19 if full-time secondary (high school) school students, that meet the technical, income and asset requirements.
The program helps families become self-supporting while allowing children to remain in their own homes.
Pregnant women may also receive TCA, either in the third trimester of pregnancy if unable to work, or in the 9th month of pregnancy. Parents, children and minor siblings who live together must apply together.
The Medicaid program provides medical coverage to low-income individuals and families. The state and federal government share the cost of the Medicaid program. Medicaid services in Florida are administered by the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Medicaid eligibility in Florida is determined either by the Department of Children and Families or the Social Security Administration (for SSI recipients).
DCF determines Medicaid eligibility for: Parents and caretakers relatives of children, children, pregnant women, former foster care individuals, non-citizens with medical emergencies, aged or disabled individuals not currently receiving Supplemental Security Income.
"It's hard to believe that the need is so great," Merritt said. "We get people from the Cape, Fort Myers and North Fort Myers. They say they are treated better here. That's a feather in our cap that they will travel that far to come to the Beacon. It's just a shame that we have this problem and it's as big as it is in the first place. It's the economy and it's a sad tale.
"But I'm glad that the Beacon is here and we can do this," she continued. "I am hoping we will be able to assist more people in 2014 because besides Linda and myself we have three additional part-time volunteers that are helping us help people doing the applications."
For additional information, contact the Beacon of H.O.P.E., 5465 Pine Island Road Bokeelia, FL 33922; call 239-283-5123 or visit the web at www.beaconofhopepineisland.com/