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Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Food Stamp Issues & Challenges Food Stamp Issues & Challenges House Committee on Human Services April 18,

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Presentation on theme: "Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Food Stamp Issues & Challenges Food Stamp Issues & Challenges House Committee on Human Services April 18,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Food Stamp Issues & Challenges Food Stamp Issues & Challenges House Committee on Human Services April 18, 2006 Celia Hagert, Senior Policy Analyst

2 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Overview Food stamp participation & unmet need Food stamp reauthorization in the 2007 Farm Bill President’s FY 2007 budget Food stamp access & integrated eligibility

3 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Participation & Unmet Need From fiscal 2001 to September 2005, participation increased dramatically – by 65% – after four years of steady and unwarranted decline “Participation rate” – the percentage of potentially eligible Texans on food stamps – has increased from 33% to 48%, compared to 56% in 1996 Unmet need has fallen, but program still fails to reach more than 2 million needy Texans

4 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Poverty and Assistance in Texas

5 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Unmet Need

6 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Factors Behind Food Stamp Growth Outreach funded by legislature since 2000 Higher resource limits (expanded categorical eligibility) Economic changes Simpler enrollment process (6-month certification period)

7 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Challenges & Opportunities: Federal Level President’s FY 2007 Budget  Categorical eligibility restrictions  CFSP elimination Retirement account exemptions – good change that would eliminate the need for families to choose between immediate needs and saving for retirement  New hire directory – aside from potential administrative costs to state, appears non- controversial

8 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Challenges & Opportunities: Federal Level  Categorical eligibility restrictions – -CPPP analysis of HHSC denial rates estimated tens of thousands could lose benefits due to resource limit changes -Original policy intended to support states’ welfare- work efforts -Reliable car to get to work ($4,650 limit outdated, established in 1977) -Support savings, home ownership, asset accumulation – the “ownership” society -Elimination incompatible with proposal to exempt retirement accounts

9 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Challenges & Opportunities: Federal Level  CFSP elimination – -Would cut benefits for 12,000+ needy seniors -“S” in CFSP = supplemental, i.e., seniors may need both food stamps and CFSP commodities -Why? Seniors on fixed income may only qualify for $10 - $30 in food stamps, but face greater need (heat vs. eat, high cost of medicine, etc.) -Some seniors do not qualify for food stamps (asset limits, immigrant restrictions) -Some seniors wary of food stamp process, associated stigma, difficulty applying -Low overhead – CFSP administered by volunteer- staffed food charities – good bang for the buck

10 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Outlook for President’s Proposals Categorical eligibility restrictions unlikely to pass – attempts last year failed during budget reconciliation process CFSP could be cut or eliminated as part of this year’s agriculture appropriations process (was already cut twice last year – targeted cut and across-the-board cut in discretionary spending) Retirement account exemption unlikely until Farm Bill/Food stamp reauthorization (2007) New Hire database could get passed as part of stand-alone bill

11 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Challenges & Opportunities: Federal Level Food Stamp Reauthorization (2007 or 2008) Increase access (i.e., outreach, simpler enrollment process, more application options) Reach more needy people through less restrictive eligibility limits (i.e., immigrant access, higher income/resource limit, etc.) Improve adequacy of benefits (i.e., across-the- board increase, targeted increase for seniors)

12 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Food Stamp Reauthorization USDA and FNS have held forums to solicit feedback from stakeholders, advocates, and the public (see P_PROGRAM.pdf for a summary of comments) P_PROGRAM.pdf See APHSA’s see “Crossroads II” (http://www.aphsa.org/Publications/crossroadsii. asp) for states’ recommendations – many commonalities with advocateshttp://www.aphsa.org/Publications/crossroadsii. asp Potential for 2007 Farm Bill, although could be delayed until 2008

13 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Challenges & Opportunities: State Level Integrated eligibility system brings innovation and potential for simpler enrollment process At the same time, more remote application process, less face-to-face assistance could create barriers for hard-to-serve (seniors, persons with disabilities, persons with language barriers) Pilot in Travis/Hays counties indicates need for technical and operational improvements/changes to ensure food stamp access and program integrity

14 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Integrated Eligibility & Food Stamp Access New system must comply with federal law/regulations related to – Program access -Right to apply without delay -State has duty to assist applicants -Timeliness in application processing -Civil rights protections for special populations (i.e., persons with disabilities, persons with language barriers) Program integrity – error rates & fraud control

15 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org USDA’s Role in Integrated Eligibility USDA is monitoring system’s performance in three areas – -System Functionality (telecommunications at call center, automated support for certification process) -Customer Service (knowledge of private contractor staff at call center, ability to assist clients) -Application timeliness USDA funding for next rollout phase contingent on successful performance in these areas USDA’s technical consultant Booz Allen is monitoring system readiness from a technology perspective and evaluating potential risks

16 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org USDA’s Review of Pilot in Mid-March System Functionality (at time of review) -High (39%) call abandonment rates -Long hold times (20 min. average) -Backlog in application processing due to problems with Max-e/TIERS interface -Incomplete application packets forwarded to state (40% returned to vendor because incomplete)

17 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org USDA’s Review of Pilot in Mid-March Customer Service (at time of review) -Lack of knowledge of private contractor staff at call centers -Bad information given to clients -Insufficient complaint process – not well documented -Problems causing frustration among clients and state staff

18 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org USDA’s Review of Pilot in Mid-March Timeliness (at time of review) -80% timeliness in application processing (combined rate for standard and expedited applications) – federal tolerance level is 95% -Much higher timeliness rate for “expedited” applications (state requires processing within 24 hours) of 94% -Therefore, standard applications processing (within 30 days) likely lower than 80%

19 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Booz Allen’s Findings & Recommendations Testing is inadequate, could lead to substandard software introduced into production Recommends creation of independent review team (with state auditor, OIG, etc.) provide input on “go-no go” decisions, i.e., whether to move forward Pilot phase is too short, not true test of system performance statewide (largely because TIERS was not a variable in the pilot area, already tested there for two years) Lack of contingency plan in the event that rollout is delayed (problems caused by attrition of state staff) Problem with Max-e/TIERS interface could lead to longer processing times/greater risk for error in data entry Next two phases should be extended for 90 days each; currently too short to indicate how public will adapt, whether new business model will work

20 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Next Steps Problems identified by USDA/HHSC must be corrected before further expansion State staffing levels must be adequate to ensure smooth transition More attention should be paid to special populations – what distinguishes the successful clients from the unsuccessful clients in the new system?

21 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org For more information or to sign up for our free Updates, visit

22 Center for Public Policy Prioritieswww.cppp.org Use of This Presentation The Center for Public Policy Priorities developed these slides for use in making public presentations. The data may become outdated. While you may reproduce these slides, please give appropriate credit to CPPP. © CPPP


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