The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) (the Farm Bill) authorized the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to award $5 million dollars in grants for FY 2003 through FY 2008. These grants are targeted to State agencies, public health or educational entities, or private nonprofit entities such as community-based or faith-based organizations, food banks, or other emergency feeding organizations. The grants are specifically for projects aimed at simplifying the food stamp application and eligibility determination systems or improving access to food stamp benefits by eligible households. In addition, FNS has used these grants to address the priorities of encouraging partnerships and coordinating enrollment in the FSP and the Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Benefit Program. For example, in FY 2004 and FY 2005 FNS awarded $1 million of the $5 million to projects that included partnerships between State agencies and faith-based or community-based organizations. In FY 2005 FNS awarded one grant to a project that coordinated the application process for the FSP and the Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Program.
The University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is systematically analyzing barriers to participation in the FSP and identifying alternatives for removing them. In addition, it is producing outreach materials that increase awareness of the FSP. Finally, it is performing observations and ethnographic studies designed to identify communication and human relations issues that should be addressed through training or changes in the administrative procedures. At the end of the project, the State agency will have a Continuous Quality Improvement model that it can use to continuously update its application processing system.
The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services is developing an on-line “Customer Service Toolbox.” The toolbox includes a self-screening program, a full application for food stamps and other programs, a form to allow applicants to make changes to their applications and a program for applicants and participants to query the status of their applications. Sites throughout the state are testing the on-line system as it is being developed. This initiative simplifies the application process, improves access to the FSP for new applicants and current participants and improves Wisconsin’s payment accuracy rate.
New Jersey Department of Human Services, in collaboration with Mercer Street Friends, the Mercer County Board of Social Services and the New Jersey Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program at Rutgers University, is creating multiple paths for individuals to access food stamp benefits. These paths include: an online food stamp application, a food stamp screening tool that estimates potential eligibility for food stamps, a printable food stamp application in multiple languages, an online interview tool and an interactive voice response system. Using this combination of new technologies, along with outreach and marketing, New Jersey hopes to ease the application and certification process as well as increase participation in the FSP.
Virginia Department of Social Services, in partnership with the Federation of Virginia Food Banks and other many other nutrition service providers, is developing an on-line application that can be transmitted electronically to the appropriate local department of social services. In addition, the partners are creating a web-based Nutrition Resource Center that makes information about all nutrition services in the State available through the internet and through information and referral providers. The partners are promoting use of the on-line application and the resource center via the media and traditional outreach activities. This multi-pronged project streamlines the application process, promote nutrition assistance and increase participation in the FSP.
Rhode Island Department of Human Services is developing a web-based interactive food stamp application and eligibility determination process for the entire State. The State agency is also purchasing and deploying ten computers in public facilities such as libraries around the State and training staffs in those offices in the use of the program so they may be able to assist applicants in completing the process. The ability to offer an interactive on-line application 24 hours a day 7 days a week greatly improves access to the FSP particularly for working families and others with difficulties in reaching an office during working hours.
The Southern Institute on Children and Families in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Social Services and Agape Ministries of Charleston (a faith-based organization), is developing, testing, and implementing a process improvement process in three county offices. In addition, it is implementing a faith-based campaign whereby volunteers perform outreach and application assistance in various churches in two counties. This initiative increases access to food stamp benefits, enhances staff capacity to solve problems, streamlines work processes and improves worker morale.
The Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) are working together to expand the scope and reach of the Benefits Eligibility System for Oklahomans (BESO), an Internet-based screening tool and calculator that determines eligibility, calculates a benefit amount, and assists clients in applying electronically for benefits. CAP is expanding BESO to various pilot sites in Oklahoma and will eventually go statewide. The expansion of BESO effectively decentralizes the screening and application process. In addition, CAP and the OKDHS are identifying and implementing changes in both the eligibility determination and application processes to address drop-offs in certification rates, and in the case maintenance process to ensure more time that frontline caseworkers can spend on managing FSP cases.
Illinois Department of Human Services is developing a process by which potentially eligible individuals can apply for food stamp benefits via the Internet and have their applications automatically register in the DHS processing system. In addition, it is developing a means by which working individuals can recertify through an automated telephone interview. Finally, it is developing a telephone based benefit calculator and local office locator. These streamlined processes improve access to the FSP by low-income households and improve services and outcomes for potential applicants.
Iowa Department of Human Services is establishing a centralized statewide Customer Call Center that responds to inquiries about the FSP and accepts and begins processing applications and reported changes. In addition, Iowa is simplifying all of its forms and translating them into Spanish. Finally, Iowa is training local faith-based and community-based organizations so they can prescreen individuals for benefits. The combination of these measures make access to Iowa’s FSP easier and more efficient for applicants and recipients and ultimately increases participation among those eligible for benefits.
Nevada Department of Human Resources and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, is developing a system that interfaces with 10 kiosks in 8 grocery stores and two welfare district offices in Washoe County (includes Reno). This system allows individuals to prescreen themselves for eligibility and apply for food stamps on-line (the kiosk application is in English and Spanish). The system also provides printouts that detail the date, time and location of the interview and the name of the worker with whom the applicant will be meeting. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada is providing an outreach worker in each grocery store to promote use of the kiosks and to assist in filling out applications. The DHS is also undertaking a marketing campaign to promote use of the kiosks. This project improves access to the FSP by increasing the number of locations individuals can apply for food stamps and making the application system more efficient for both the applicant and the worker which ultimately increases the number of eligible individuals receiving food stamps.
New Mexico Association of Food Banks, in conjunction with the New Mexico Human Services Department, is using an outreach coordinator to recruit and manage volunteers. These volunteers conduct outreach and provide application assistance to potential recipients. In addition, it is using “mobile” eligibility workers to work in community-based locations to qualify and enroll food stamp applicants. Finally, it is training “food stamp champions” who communicate the value of the FSP to both customers and staff. This multi-pronged project increases participation in the FSP and reduces the amount of time required to process food stamp applications.
Elder Law of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Human Services are developing the Michigan Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly (MiCAFE), which is an on-line application processing system, in Wayne County. Elder Law of Michigan is also providing locations where individuals can apply using this system and is training volunteers to provide application assistance. This project increases access to the FSP and streamlines and simplifies the application process, particularly for the elderly and disabled.
State of Arizona, Office of the Governor, in partnership with the Department of Economic Security, El Rio Health Center, the Benefits Checkup partnership, the Arizona Community Action Association, the Foundation for Senior Living (a faith-based organization) and the Arizona 2-1-1 project, is expanding Health-e-Arizona to include the FSP. Health-e-Arizona is a web-based, cross-agency, fully automated application system that enrolls low-income individuals in public health insurance programs. By including the FSP in the Health-e-Arizona system, community-based agencies have the ability to submit electronic food stamp applications directly to the DES. In addition, Arizona is enhancing its web-based pre-screening tools, Benefits CheckUP Arizona and Arizona Self Help, so individuals can prescreen for eligibility and then link directly to the Health-e-Arizona system. Finally, Arizona is expanding its 2-1-1 system to provide information and referral services to include food stamps. This paperless system increases locations where individuals can apply for benefits and simplifies and streamlines the application process.
City of New York, in partnership with the New York City Coalition against Hunger, is designing and implementing an automated application, eligibility and recertification system. This system is able to take applications at about 1,200 locations around New York City; and can scan verification documents. The system also generates, where appropriate, applications for the Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Benefit Program. This project results in a paperless office system which simplifies the application process for both program administrators and applicants, increases the number of locations individuals can apply for benefits thereby increasing participation in the FSP.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services, in collaboration with the Semcac and Olmstead County Community Action Agencies, is developing a software program that offers a streamlined, multi-program application process for about 624,000 Community Action Agency clients, a simplified re-certification process, and a simplified monthly reporting process. The project expands the number of locations available for people to apply for benefits, ensures easier access to food stamps and to other county services and leads to increased participation in the FSP.
Tennessee Department of Human Services is deploying ‘roving’ caseworkers in two urban counties to enroll and recertify applicants and participants. The caseworkers are available in the early mornings and the evenings in convenient locations. They hold a “walk-in-clinic” one day a week. This project eases access to the FSP for working families, pregnant women, immigrants and refugees, and senior citizens. Through this initiative, Tennessee hopes to improve its payment accuracy; timeliness of application processing, productivity and customer satisfaction.
Maryland Department of Human Resources, with its partner the United Way of Central Maryland, is developing a web-based multi-program screening and application tool that offers access to food stamp benefits and other benefits through United Way locations and community-based organizations. This project improves access to the FSP as well as eight other benefit programs, including the Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Benefit Program.
State Information Technology Consortium (SITC), in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Legal Aid Society, the Virginia Department for the Aging and its local Meals on Wheels organizations will receive $999,993 to develop an automated, joint food stamp and Meals on Wheels application that can be used at clients’ homes with mobile technology. It will also develop an XML web service that takes data from Legal Aid’s phone and online database intake process, uses it to populate a food stamp application, and routes the application to the appropriate local DSS. SITC will post the source code, business process documentation and technical documentation on the Internet for use by any organization interested in replicating this strategy.
San Francisco Human Services Agency, in partnership with various community-based and faith-based organizations, will receive $1 million to establish a phone bank, a web-based screening and application tool, and remote enrollment and recertification sites in neighborhoods throughout the city. The phone bank will provide recertification services to on-going participants and information, pre-screening, and application services to potential participants. The web-based screening and application tool will allow individuals to submit an application on-line. The remote enrollment centers will be supplied with computers, web-cams, fax machines and scanners so applicants/recipients can complete the entire application/recertification process from these remote locations, including the face-to-face interview.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources, in partnership with Georgia Cares in the Division of Aging Services, and Christ Lutheran Church, a faith-based organization, will receive $1 million to create a web-based food stamp application system. This system will allow customers to pre-screen themselves for eligibility, to submit applications directly on line, and to submit change reports via email. Staff at Georgia’s already existing call centers will handle the online applications and the change reports. This new system will also enable eligibility workers to transfer cases between county lines. Georgia Cares will do outreach to seniors and help individuals apply for food stamps at the same time they apply for Medicare Part D. Christ Lutheran Church and other community and faith-based organizations will distribute informational materials, provide access to the web link, and assist individuals with the application process if necessary.
Angel Food Ministries (AFM), with the endorsement of the Alabama State Agency will receive $999,925 to place computers and point of sale devices at 50 AFM sites. The computers will be loaded with USDA’s pre-screening tool, a printable version of the state agency’s food stamp application, a list of verification requirements, and information about other community resources. Individuals can prescreen themselves, fill out and print a food stamp application, and research other forms of assistance. Volunteers at these sites will be available to assist individuals with filling out the application and delivering it to the appropriate food stamp office. AFM will also place point of sale technology at these sites which will allow recipients to use their EBT cards to purchase groceries from AFM at a reduced rate. AFM hopes to replicate this project in Louisiana within two years and subsequently to 500 AFM sites in 32 states.
AFM is a non-profit grocery relief provider and authorized food stamp retailer that assists up to 1 million people a month in 32 States by selling high quality groceries worth up to $75 for a set fee of $25. The groceries can feed a family of four for a week or a single senior citizen for a month.
California Statewide Automated Welfare Systems (SAWS) C-IV Project, which includes Merced, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Stanislaus counties, in partnership with many community based organizations will receive $1 million to develop a program that will allow individuals to apply for food stamps over the internet. The “C-IV Yourself” project will also generate a list of needed verifications. Individuals will be able to access their personal information with the use of a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Community based organizations will do outreach, marketing, and application assistance.
Oregon Department of Human Services is requesting $445,753 to simplify the food stamp application process and improve program access with the purchase of Forms Factory software to create an on-line application that will be accessible at various community sites. The State plans to pilot test the technology in four counties, three of which will target the senior population. In addition, part of the grant will be used to provide seniors in one of the (3) pilot counties the option to receive free monthly home delivery of groceries. The State plans to partner with several agencies including three new partnerships that include two faith-based organizations, Southern Neighborhood Operation Witness Community Action Program (Snow-CAP and Oregon Faith-Based Roundtable Against Hunger (OFRAH) and the American Association or Retired Persons (AARP). FNS contacted the State to clarify that the free grocery delivery service would not be funded after the grant period ends.
Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) administers the Food Stamp Program in Utah and is proposing a new partnership with the Utahns Against Hunger (UAH), a twenty-nine year old advocacy, education and community resource non-profit organization, to implement the Food Stamp Application Access Project. The State is requesting $999,067 to develop and establish a new online application process that will be accessible at local food banks and senior citizen centers throughout the State. The State plans to subcontract with UAH to establish thirty food pantries and thirty senior citizen centers as food stamp access points. One urban and one rural food pantry and one urban and one rural senior citizen center will participate in an access point pilot before State-wide roll-out which is anticipated to begin November 2008 through April 2009. An error in the States budget submission brings the cost of the grant request down to $746,000.
Vermont Department for Children and Families is requesting $1,000,000 to implement a Vermont Food Stamp Application Modernization project by designing and developing a state-of-the-art document imaging and indexing system, an automated telephone help line using an automated voice response system and an online web-based application. The State plans to continue an ongoing partnership with the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger and establish a new partnership with the University of Vermont to facilitate implementation of cutting edge technology to modernize the State’s food stamp application process. Vermont anticipates this modernization project will significantly help to update the State’s technological capabilities and increase the number of ways that potential recipients can access the Program. In follow-up conversations with the State concerning cost-allocation issues with the imaging system, the State indicated that initially the system would be used for food stamp issues only. There is a possibility that the State could reduce the grant request by approximately $140,000 if the outreach portion of the grant was eliminated.
Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government in partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (State agency) and new partnerships with numerous local faith-based and community-based nonprofits is requesting $999,947 to pilot an online benefits tool (OBT) in Jefferson County. Plans are to expand program access points and use remote site staff in community-based organizations to facilitate applications, collect and scan supporting documentation and submit both to the local Food Stamp office. Applications completed using the tool will be submitted to the State via fax or hard copy while partners evaluate the feasibility of electronic submissions. The Louisville Metro Department of Health and Family Services (LMDHFS) will cooperate with the State agency to jointly select the online benefits tool. FNS contacted Louisville Metro to discuss the cost allocation for the online benefit tool since there are plans to have more benefit programs added to the tool. Further discussion of the cost allocation issue will need to take place with FNS grants management staff and the potential awardee before a grant is awarded.
Mississippi Department of Human Services MDHS) is requesting $999,075 to implement a statewide web-based, interactive E-application program to streamline office procedures and improve the food stamp application process for eligible applicants. The project is designed to allow access at any location where the Internet can be accessed including public libraries, kiosks in malls as well as the remote locations of the MDHS. Federal funding will be used to pay for the cost of network equipment, boot appliances, hardware, software and consulting necessary to build the smart terminal and Internet browser systems in both small and large office setups. MDHS plans to partner with non-profit organizations in order to provide another set of locations where potential clients can be identified and the on-line application process is initiated. MDHS will draft agreements with the non-profits to explain the project and train them to assist clients in inputting information. There is a commitment from the Mississippi Association of Community Action Agency (MACAA) which consists of twenty agencies across the State to devote staff time and facilities to the project.
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in partnership with the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh (ULGP) and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger (GPCAH) is requesting $961,628 to streamline and simplify the online application/recertification process by adding functionality to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Services (COMPASS) online application to develop, test and implement a process that will permit individuals to scan verification documents and attach them to the COMPASS application or recertification. In addition, the project will include the development of Food Stamp Post Screening designed to evaluate applications being submitted via COMPASS (by citizens or community partners) where the household has not requested food stamps, but based on the information provided appear to be food stamp eligible. The collaboration with GPCAH and ULGP will allow the State to test scanning in separate areas of the State, with GPCAH conducting a pilot in the urban Philadelphia region, while the ULGP will conduct the pilot in the rural, Appalachian regions surrounding Allegheny County.
El Paso County Department of Human Services will upgrade technology used in administering the Food Stamp Program and develop new partnerships with the local community health center, local Head Start Grantee and a private non-profit faith-based organization to improve access to food benefits among the elderly and Hispanic population. Some of the proposed project activities include a plan to bar code and scan documentation received in food stamp applications and recertifications to eliminate paper applications and implementation of an improved call management system to track and manage calls to the food stamp call center.
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona in partnership with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (Medicaid), the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of USDA Nutrition Programs, the Arizona Agencies on Aging and multiple faith-based and community partners will implement a “Food for All” project. The project will emphasize services to the elderly and outreach in geographic areas that contain large concentrations of Hispanics. Plans are to revise internal policy and procedures and modernize the current public benefits delivery systems using innovative technology and new collaborations with faith-based and community partners.
Denver Department of Human Services plans to implement a Food Stamp Improvement Project that will improve Food Stamp Program delivery through technology upgrades. The goals of the project are to create a framework to manage Denver’s Food Stamp Program; streamline and expedite the current application method to improve service and ensure that all eligible applicants receive benefits in a timely manner.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in partnership with seven additional community-based organizations will implement a comprehensive initiative designed to increase food stamp participation, especially among eligible elderly and Hispanic populations in a five-county Circuit. DCF plans to create a direct telephone link between applicants and interviewers, streamline the current business process, establish new partnerships and enhance current ones and implement training and community awareness programs.
California Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) Consortium IV in cooperation with three local community agencies plans to enhance its C-IVYourself web based application which allows customer to apply for food stamps via the internet. The project would add a bilingual ”Report My Changes” section that would allow customers to complete recertification during non-traditional work hours and a “Check My Benefits” section that will allow customers at a secure location to obtain information regarding case status, allotment amount, remaining benefits, important dates and their worker’s name and telephone number. The final piece includes adding additional questions to the online application to streamline the application process for the customer and the county and be more compatible with existing C-VI functionality.
Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) will conduct a project in nine counties, involving thirteen offices, to simplify the recertification application process and improve access to benefits. Through partnerships with the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, Interagency Coordinating Council on Hunger and Homelessness and Oregon Housing and Community Services, plans are to target five offices with large Hispanic and Native American populations. The project proposes to utilize scanning and imaging technology to capture recertification information and simplify the application process by moving away from the paper application, reducing the number of times clients will need to come to the office; eliminating duplicate paperwork and supporting internal tracking of food stamp recertification applications.
Alabama Department of Human Resources plans to develop and implement a statewide web-based application program that would simplify the application process for eligible applicants and further increase access to the Food Stamp Program. The system will allow potential recipients to apply and enter basic interview information from a web-based portal where internet access is available, including locations set up in conjunction with partner agencies. Plans are to establish partnerships with the Alabama Department of Senior Services and the Alabama Family Resource Centers to provide convenient locations where applicants would have online access to apply for food stamps.
City of New York Human Resources Administration (HRA) in partnership with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) and Food Bank for New York City will implement the Nutritional Enhancement for Elder through Data Sharing (NEEDS) Programs that will target senior citizens enrolled in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) Program. Plans are to create an application process improvement for senior citizens by enabling them to apply or recertify for Food Stamp benefits through a link from DFTA’s SCRIE database to HRA’s Food Stamp Paperless Office System. Applicants would not have to provide the same information previously collected by the DFTA.