Public Interest Law Section Updates from PILS Chairman Maria Elena Abate--December 9 - Colodny Fass

Public Interest Law Section Updates from PILS Chairman Maria Elena Abate--December 9

Date Published: 12-09-2008

A Message From PILS Chairman Maria Elena Abate (Above)


Dear Members:

Below is recent news of interest to the Florida Bar's Public Interest Law Section Members (scroll down to view the complete stories):

  • Thursday, December 11:  Complimentary Member Benefit--1.0 hour CLE Presented by Don Winstead, Deputy Secretary Department of Children & Families:  "“The Federal ‘Fostering Connections to Success Act’ Opportunities and Challenges for Florida”
  • Governor Crist Announces New Service for Floridians Receiving Public Assistance

Complimentary December 11 Webinar Featuring DCF Deputy Secretary Includes 1.0 hour CLE Benefit

On Thursday, December 11, 2008, The Florida Bar Foundation Children’s Legal Services Grantees and The Public Interest Law Section of The Florida Bar present a complimentary "Lunch 'n' CLE" entitled "The Federal ‘Fostering Connections to Success Act’ Opportunities and Challenges for Florida" from 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

The Webinar, which will afford 1.0 hours in CLE credit, is complimentary to Public Interest Law Section Members as an added benefit of their annual membership.

Webinar participants will become acquainted with the newest federal law to affect children and families in dependency.   If you work with the child welfare system, relative caregivers, or adoptive families, this law will impact your work. 

Don Winstead, Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Children & Families ("DCF") will discuss provisions of the new law and how Florida is planning its implementation.  Mr. Winstead, who is key to DCF's implementation of the law, will be available to answer your questions.
To Register for the Webinar: 

Click here to reserve your space.  Or, copy/paste the following URL into your web browser:

A downloadable copy of the event flyer is attached for your convenience.


Governor Crist Announces New Service for Floridians Receiving Public Assistance

My ACCESS Account allows clients to check case status 24-hours a day, seven days a week

TALLAHASSEE – On December 9, 2008, Governor Charlie Crist announced the creation of My ACCESS Account, a system that allows food stamp, temporary cash assistance and Medicaid applicants and recipients to check the status of their case online, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.  Governor Crist was joined by George Sheldon, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, to unveil the account management program which empowers customers with information about their public assistance benefits at their convenience.

“As we continue to work to make the most of state resources, it is encouraging to see state agencies finding new and practical ways to improve customer service for Floridians,” said Governor Crist. “Through the My ACCESS account system, we are providing so much more than a service. We are giving Floridians peace of mind.“

My ACCESS Account users can check account status, view current benefits, check the date benefits will be available, and print a temporary Medicaid card. Users can also view information regarding their appointments, verifications that may be needed to determine eligibility, a history of benefits and other important information regarding their case.  To register for My ACCESS Account, visit  The information is available only to individual users who will log onto a secure account with a private, protected username and password.  

“Every day the Department works to provide the best customer service to our customers and My ACCESS Account is another important tool to help us do just that,” said Secretary Sheldon.  “Our current economy and the ongoing needs of our clients only reinforce the importance of our programs and we’re proud to work with Governor Crist to serve those in need.”

Today, more Floridians are applying for and receiving public assistance than ever before.  In November, 1.7 million people received food stamps; 91,000 people received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits; and 1.8 million individuals received Medicaid.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that Florida has experienced the highest food stamp caseload increase in the nation, now 45 percent above the April 2007 level. With My ACCESS Account, the millions who receive assistance can get information about their account, whenever they need it.
ACCESS Florida is the modernized public assistance system that provides Food Stamps, Medicaid, and temporary cash assistance to families in need.  Continuous improvements to the system have been used as a model for social service agencies nationwide.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded the Department a $5.4 million bonus for having the most improved food stamp error rate in the nation. 

Individuals who wish to apply for assistance can call 1-866-76ACCES (1-866-762-2237).  They can also apply online at, or visit one of the program’s 3,300 community partner sites.

For more information about the Department of Children and Families’ ACCESS Florida program, visit


3070_12-11-08 eFlyer.doc  3070_12-11-08 eFlyer.doc