Cumberland County Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for a situation that left hundreds of people standing in the rain Tuesday while they waited for Hurricane Irene relief funds.
Members of both parties said they want an investigation into what happened, with Republicans calling the event a “fiasco” and “travesty” and Democrats saying they were never told about the problem or that the funds were being dispersed.
Distribution of U.S. Department of Agriculture Disaster Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program funds will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at the Cumberland County One-Stop Career Center at Delsea Drive and Park Boulevard in Vineland. Those who are eligible can get as much as $200 to buy food with the so-called D-SNAP money.
Tuesday was supposed to be last day for the funds to be distributed at the career center. People started lining up before the center opened, and officials with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene to keep order.
Cumberland County was not the only county to be crowded with people seeking the D-SNAP funds.
“We have heard reports about the long lines of people winding around buildings, waiting for hours to apply for D-SNAP,” New Jersey Department of Human Services Commission Jennifer Velez said in a statement. “It is why we encouraged the counties to open multiple locations and get the word out early to residents about the program.”
But the problems that occurred in Cumberland County on Tuesday happened during an election year that could decide whether Republicans or Democrats take control of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Also at stake is the state Senate seat and two Assembly seats for the 1st Legislative District, which includes parts of Cumberland County.
Republican Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi, who seeking one of the Assembly seats, wants Democratic Cumberland County Freeholder James Dunkins to be stripped of his liaison duties involving the one-stop career center.
“What happened …at the (center) was a disgrace to Cumberland County and someone needs to be held accountable,” Fiocchi said. “Our residents don’t deserve to be treated that way.”
Dunkins, who is seeking election to the final year of an unexpired term on the freeholder board, said he was never notified about Tuesday’s event.
“Once I was made aware of what was occurring, I assessed the situation, made arrangements with the sheriff and his men and instructed the county staff to take the necessary steps to request an extension for those still seeking to apply for benefits,” Dunkins said.
State human services officials in New Jersey counties have processed at least 10,000 D-SNAP applications. They said they don’t know how many of the more than 380,000 eligible households will apply for or receive D-SNAP funds.
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