The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has contracted with Florida Impact, a private, non-profit organization based in Tallahassee to operate a statewide toll-free help-line. This help-line assists low-income residents learn about the advantages of the Food Stamp Program, participate in a pre-screening to determine potential eligibility to receive food stamps, and receive application materials. Pending Federal approval of the proposed Outreach State Plan for FFY 2005, Florida Impact will also include IRS information regarding Earned Income Tax Credit when they mail-out food stamp application materials to potential food stamp applicants. The IRS will also distribute outreach materials prepared by Florida Impact.
The toll-free help-line began operation in October 2000 and is currently averaging 1,500 calls per month. The help-line operates Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00PM, and recognizes State of Florida holidays. The help-line employs bilingual staff and has machine backup for messages in case all staff are busy with callers.
The toll-free help-line phone number is distributed via Florida Impact’s statewide network of partner advocacy organizations. A number of methods are used to reach as much of the potential “non-participating” food stamp eligible audience as possible.
Because Florida does not have funds allocated for food stamp outreach activities, Florida Impact gave a cash donation to the State of Florida. This cash is secured from nonfederal grants and donations. An application is then made to USDA for a matching cash waiver, thus creating the operational budget for this project.
Food Stamp Program potential recipients have come to depend on Florida Impact’s toll-free help-line for assistance with inquiries regarding participating in the Food Stamp Program. Applicants are benefiting from Florida Impact’s services. Initial data matching indicates a high accuracy rate with those applicants referred by the help-line staff, e.g. if Florida Impact’s prescreening indicates a potential client would be eligible to receive food stamps, there is a 98% accuracy rate that they will be approved if they actually apply. Plans are underway to develop a procedure for more frequent data matching.
Good planning meetings and communication have kept all “problems” very minimal.
Suggestion: Speak with the staff at Florida Impact and observe their operation. Their day-to-day operation of the project is very impressive.
For more information, contact:
Steve Peacock, Operations Review Specialist
Florida Department of Children & Families
Florida EBT Project
1317 Winewood Blvd., Bldg. 3, Room 101-H
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0700
Debra A. Susie, Ph.D.,
Florida Impact Education Fund, Inc.
345 S. Magnolia Drive, #E-11
Tallahassee, Florida 32301