Long lines led to frustration, for hundreds of low-income Connecticut residents who stood in long lines, trying to get help after Tropical Storm Irene. In Bridgeport, that reportedly led to brawls.
The deadline to apply for federal reimbursement for food that spoiled after the storm was Tuesday, but officials from the state Department of Social Services couldn't get to everyone who was standing in line on Tuesday, so state officials are expecting long-lines again on Wednesday as they continue take applications.
Nine thousand people applied for help. While there were complaints about the long waits, tempers flared in Bridgeport, where fights broke out in line at the state Department of Social Services offices, the Connecticut Post reports.
In New Haven, the line started forming at 8:30 p.m., 12 half hours before the social service centers across the state open, the Post reports.
People who lost income and who need to pay for temporary shelter costs and for property repairs had from last Wednesday to this week to submit applications that would amount to $200 in help for a single person and $952 for a family of six.
In New Haven alone, more than 1,000 people lined up for blocks on Bassett Street and some refused to allow cars to access driveways, blocked streets and blocked the path of school buses, police said.
Extra police were brought in to keep the crowds controlled.
Tanisha Mathis, of New Haven, waited in long lines on Monday to apply for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“There’s more people cutting in line. There’s people that's coming up. Nobody's keeping control of anything and it’s just a mess,” she said.
People returned with no guarantee of receiving the one-time payment. It is for low-income residents who do not receive food stamps and incurred certain losses after the storm.
“They could find a better way to help us. … I’m on disability and live off Social Security. I have no food,: Joyce Thomas, of New Haven, said.
The state’s eight Department of Social Services offices started processing applications last week, but the lines grew as more people heard about the funding.
DSS offices had more people turn out than expected. In Manchester, police were brought in. In New Haven, hundreds of people were turned away. Others got rain checks to come back.
“They knew they weren't going to be able to serve all these people at one time like this. And we've been standing out here all day,” Bobby Young, of New Haven, said on Monday.
Priscilla Si, of New Haven, said DSS needs more and the process needs to be more organized.
Officials from DSS said they have deployed more staff to work with the large crowds.
The deadline to apply is 3:30 p.m. and hours will not be extended. However, people who are still in line at that point will receive vouchers to return for processing.
To be eligible, take-home income and liquid assets between Aug. 27 to Sept. 25 cannot exceed $2,186 for a single person, $2,847 for a household of two, $3,272 for a household of three, $3,859 for a household of four, $4,254 for a household of five, $4,753 for a household of six; $5,116 for a household of seven; and $5,479 for a household of eight.
Applicants had to bring proof of identity, residency, income, assets and storm-related expenses for Aug. 27 through Sept. 25.