People line up at 1 a.m. to sign up for Hurricane Irma aid in Plant City

PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – People began lining up at 1 a.m. on Monday to get food stamps after long lines prevented many Hurricane Irma victims from signing up to get help in Plant City over the weekend. Frustration has set in for many.

Several drivers in line early Monday morning tell News Channel 8 this isn’t their first time in line. They were also waiting in line on Saturday and Sunday, but only reached the stadium after the relief site was closed for the day. These drivers say they woke up extra early on Monday to ensure they were in the front of the line.

Traffic was backed up early Sunday morning in Plant City as families from all over Hillsborough County tried again to get help after Hurricane Irma.

Thousands were trying to qualify for food stamps to help with disaster relief at Plant City Stadium, causing major backups in the area.

About two miles outside of the stadium, near the Hillsborough Community College, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic that extended for miles. Some were trying to apply for relief after Irma, but others stuck in traffic were just trying to get to work.

Drivers say they left for the stadium at 4 a.m. but still ran into the heavy traffic.

“Oh my God, it is really frustrating but sometimes you have to make a lot of sacrifice in life,” said Mayra Vazquez.

Our News Channel 8 crew witnessed cars breaking down and overheating as they waited in the long lines of traffic around 6:30 a.m. The assistance site in Plant City reopened at 7 a.m.

On Saturday, thousands waited in lines of cars for hours and even started running out of gas while waiting to get to the assistance site. Many left their cars behind and chose to walk, only to be turned away at the gate.

After two days of traffic jams, business owners are frustrated.

“Yesterday I had to close my salon down completely. I had to find somewhere else I could do my clients. I am a hairdresser, and they couldn’t get in at all. They were stuck in traffic too which was awful, and they couldn’t get out of it either,” said business owner Gina Barron.

Once families do get inside, it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly two hours to see if you qualify for aid.

Officials tell us 16,000 Hillsborough County families came through the line in just two days.

The site will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Tuesday.

Click here to pre-register before coming to the site to apply for emergency food stamps.

Hernando, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and Manatee are set to open more sites within the next couple of weeks. Click here for more dates and locations.

You can check to see if you qualify by visiting this website.


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