Cutting into line
Here's a Sun-Sentinel story. After Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida, people who wouldn't normally qualify for food stamps are allowed to apply for temporary assistance to cover lost food and other disaster expenses. It is part of disaster relief, and many middle class people can get it. We have a friend who is a postal worker who qualified for himself and his family. He's getting around $500.
In Hollywood Florida some city firefighters applied for assistance. What irked many is that these men and women applied while on duty and jumped other people in line.(These lines often lasted for hours) If they qualify for the help, I see no problem on that issue. As to jumping the line and applying on duty, I have more mixed feelings. They shouldn't be applying while on duty, on the other hand does their work hours make it difficult to apply? I mean hours were 8-5 or 9-6 approximately. Firefighters were 12 or 24 hour shifts. It may not have been easy for these people to apply. Maybe the Sun-Sentinel should have asked the firemen in question so we can get the whole story.
Florida Cracker is less sympathetic towards these civil servants.
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As hundreds of Hurricane Wilma victims stood in line last week waiting for emergency food stamps, a group of Hollywood firefighters pulled up in a fire engine, parked and walked right in.
They were not there to douse a fire or treat a sick person. They went inside to apply for food stamps. No lines. No waiting.
More than 175,000 Broward residents who suffered financial hardship as a result of the storm spent hours last week snaking through lines that stretched blocks, hoping the federal government would help them restock their pantries.
Some people got special treatment: the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women. And police officers and firefighters.
At Broward's three application sites -- in Hollywood, Pompano Beach and Sunrise -- state workers set up separate lines for emergency workers, Department of Children and Families District Administrator Jack Moss said Friday.
"We made accommodations so they could apply while on duty and not have to stand on line for two hours so they could get back to work," Moss said. "We did the same for temporary state employees that wanted to make an application. We accommodated them so they'd be back on the job faster. They were there to serve the public."
The Hollywood firefighters, assigned to Engine 31, were sent to the Millennium Mall on Nov. 10 to stand by in case anyone became sick while waiting in line, Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez said.
Moss said it was right to give emergency workers a break because they put in long hours making sure the application sites were safe and secure. But the firefighters assigned to the mall in Hollywood were rotated out about every two hours, Fernandez said.
Sandrine Burridge, a customer service representative from Pompano Beach, said police officers and firefighters should have not have received preferential treatment.
She had to apply for assistance while on her lunch break last Wednesday.
"They should wait in line like the rest of us," Burridge said. "We all have to go back to work to make money. It's not right."
It took Burridge an hour to make what is normally a five-minute trip from her office to the Festival Flea Market on Sample Road, where applications were being accepted. Once she got there, it took her 90 minutes to get through the line.
Since she is only allowed 60 minutes for lunch, she had to stay at work late to make up the extra 90 minutes, she said.
Hollywood officials on Friday said they did not know how many firefighters, police officers or other workers opted to apply for emergency food stamps. The program, a one-time offer of help to people in such dire financial circumstances they would have had difficulty feeding their families, was paid for by the federal government and administered by DCF.
On Friday, Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Rohan refused to release the names of the firefighters who worked at the food stamp site on Nov. 10. He said he was "conducting an investigation" but would not elaborate.