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Lines wrap around buildings as people try to get SNAP benefits reimbursed after power outage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Many of the areas hit hardest by this weekend’s storm are spots where people rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families.

The health department recommends you throw away perishable items after four hours, which spoiled a lot of families’ meals.

The Department of Human Services is letting people affected get their food stamps reimbursed, but it doesn’t come without a toll.

Thousands of people were waiting in lines wrapped around the two DHS office buildings on Wednesday in the beating sun in the hopes of being able to feed their families.

“It’s horrible," said Tina who was in line. "I almost fainted, which is why I’m sitting down.”

Tina was one of thousands hoping to get her SNAP benefits reimbursed after having to throw away all her food with the power outage.

Many of the people who were waiting outside in the heat in the long lines are still without lights and air conditioning.

“It’s very hectic," said Tina. "I feel like crying, but what are you going to do?”

City officials did bring water bottles out to people waiting, but it was good Samaritans who delivered food and picked up the trash piling up in the area.

“They were talking about how nobody was doing anything about it, so we came on down," said volunteer Shannon Bascue.

There was also a MATA bus on the property that city officials said was parked there for people to come cool off and sit in air conditioning, but people in line said if they lost their spot, they wouldn't be able to get it back.

DHS has two offices for people to come register and neither looked better than the other.

“There should be something easier where you don’t have to stand out in the heat to do it, but they’ll come up with something I guess," said Bascue.

Representative Antonio Parkinson said he was disappointed at what he saw.

“People are waiting by dumpsters, waiting to be served by the Department of Human Services," he said.

He said customers initially had to wait for their addresses to be verified as not having power for at least 12 hours until they could be eligible for SNAP reimbursement, but now MLGW is sending over the addresses to DHS, with the hopes they can then be reinstated within a day.

They’re also working to open more offices for people to go to.

We asked Mayor Jim Strickland for comment on this and he said they’re working with DHS to speed up the lines.

City officials recommend those without power and in need of food to go to city libraries, churches and the American Red Cross shelters.