The Florida SunCap Program
Florida’s Food Assistance agencies help low-income families and individuals who are struggling to provide food for themselves or their families. The SunCap program is one of these programs, but is offered only to those residents in the state who have become eligible to begin receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income). As one of several food assistance programs, if you are already participating in a food program in Florida, then you may already be enrolled into the SunCap program.
Unlike other governmental programs, SunCap benefits can be received at the same time as other government assistance without penalty. This is true whether the food assistance is funded federally, locally or by the state. There are some restrictions, however. SunCap participants are allowed to receive assistance from several programs only if the amount of the SunCap award amount is less than other monies received. If you are not sure about the amounts, there are several online pre-screening tools that will do the fact-finding for you, so that you don’t waste your time filling out the lengthy application only to be turned down. Make sure, if you do find you qualify, to make an in-person visit to apply for SunCap. Florida SunCap programs are administered by the Social Security offices, and not the health department or Department of Children and Families.
As with other food assistance programs, SunCap utilizes EBT cards, which can be used much like a debit card or a credit card. Balances are loaded at the same time each month, and qualified beneficiaries can check their balances either online or by calling a toll-free number. The amount of the award is based on the SSI or SSID award, as well as other factors. The charts that the Florida Food Assistance Program creates are based on numbers sent by the USDA in regard to the average costs of food provided to maintain a minimal level of nutrition and sustenance. Women and children can access other services such as WIC, or SNAP in addition to the SunCap program, if they qualify.
Other qualifications include the fact that the applicant is at least 18 years of age, is not working, or is unable to work, and prepares food alone. Those applicants who have a family would be better served to apply for other food assistance programs, such as SNAP or WIC in the state. One of the benefits of receiving SunCap is that the SSI interview and the SunCap interview are the same interview. There are no additional forms to fill out. Recertification happens every four years, which is different from the other programs, which require that participants reapply annually.
You are not required to accept the food assistance from SunCap, even if you originally qualified for it due to SSI receipt. Residents who are paying more than $50 out-of-pocket for medical expenses or those paying over $700 a month for rent, taxes or mortgages also should qualify to apply for the regular SNAP food assistance, if preferred. The amount awarded is based on SSI received, family size and where in the country you live.
The way to apply for SunCap is to file for SSI through the Social Security office. The agent in charge will assess whether or not you will qualify. In many cases, you may be converted from the SNAP program to the SunCap Program. SunCap also offers an expedited service for those who are in desperate straits. The benefits can start as soon as seven days if the household’s income is less than $150 dollars, and savings equal less than $100 in the bank. Additionally, if your household has migrant or seasonal farm workers living in it, then the expedited service may apply. If there are immigrant workers, they must be here under legal circumstances, but do not have to be U.S. citizens. There are rules and regulations concerning SunCap expedited services, and they should be reviewed for applicants considering SunCap assistance.
The SunCap EBT cards can be used at participating grocery stores and some farmers markets. They cannot be used online, as of late. Meals on wheels in some locations also accept SunCap EBT cards. Most participating stores will hang a sign in their windows, or display a sign that says they accept SNAP or SunCap cards. If the sign is not displayed, you can inquire at the customer service desk. While these vendors are required to display the sign, it is not always in a conspicuous place.