By Carey Codd

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tens of thousands of people descended on CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines Thursday to sign up for Food for Florida benefits due to losses they suffered from Hurricane Irma. It led to long lines and crazy traffic but also lots of happy people.

Everywhere you turned was a tale of recovery from Hurricane Irma.

“We were out of work and we gotta recuperate what we lost,” said Yiemi Mata from Coconut Creek.

“We lost food,” said Jamal Williams from Pembroke Pines. “Our car had a tree on top of it.”

“I received water in my house and now I need to pay $10,000 to my insurance,” said Logi Rios, of Miami Gardens.

They came like thousands and thousands of others to try and get some government assistance and you could, too. If you suffered a loss from the Hurricane like damage to your home, or you were out of work, or you lost food you could qualify for benefits. We’re told a family of four could receive more than $1,000. And yet despite the average wait time of 2 to 3 hours, people were grateful.

“Although the lines can be long at times, people are very patient and appreciative and when all is said and done we see a lot of smiles and happy faces,” said Paige Patterson-Hughes, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is administering the benefits on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We’ve even gotten a few hugs.”

At Miami-Dade College on Thursday, people waited in the rain and sun for hours Thursday for benefits. People who are already receiving food benefits from another program are not eligible for these benefits. And these benefits cover the time period between September 5 and October 4.

Organizers and recipients say the long lines are evidence of how Hurricane Irma impacted lives and cost people money.

“Some can’t even go back to work — the jobs are not there,” said Nella Levy-Fogah. “They lost so much during the hurricane and they need help and there’s nowhere else to get it.”

Organizers estimate more than 250,000 people in Broward will receive benefits and more than 300,000 in Miami-Dade. Gates at CB Smith Park reopen Friday at 7 am. The program runs through Sunday.

The best advice from organizers is to arrive early, and pre-register online at the DCF website.

The Food for Florida disaster food assistance program for Broward County will take place:

C.B. Smith Park
900 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines

Central Broward Regional Park
3801 W. Sunrise Blvd., Lauderhill

Quiet Waters Park
401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach

The Food for Florida disaster food assistance program for Miami-Dade County will take place:

Tropical Park
7900 SW 40 Street, Miami

Miami-Dade College North Campus
11380 NW 27th Avenue, Miami

South Dade Government Center
10710 SW 211 Street, Miami

Amelia Earhart Park
451 E 56 Street, Hialeah


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