Florida Awarded $11.5 Million for Food Stamp Program Excellence
For Third Year in a Row Florida Earns Federal Bonus
Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida was again named the best in the nation for food stamp payment accuracy and also earned the distinction for the most improvement in correctly handling benefit denials and closures. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the diligent work of Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) employees has earned the state a bonus of more than $11.5 million
Florida’s bonus was the highest of any state, accounting for 39 percent of the awards nationally. It is the largest bonus ever awarded to a state for such excellence since the USDA bonus program began in 2003.
"Today’s federal bonus announcement recognizes the meaningful and significant efforts our Department is making to ensure Floridians are provided the service and attention they deserve,” DCF Secretary George Sheldon said. “It is a tremendous honor to hold the number one spot two years in a row in such a complex program, and it is a true reflection of the tireless efforts of our employees."
Florida’s Food Stamp Program (also known as SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the fourth largest in the country, providing more than $4 billion worth of benefits to more than 3.5 million people in the past year. Last year, the state earned a $7.1 million performance bonus for best accuracy, and in 2008 the state was awarded $5.5 million for most improvement in that category.
This year, for the work done in fiscal year 2009, Florida received $7,754,744 in the best payment accuracy category and $3,797,503 for the most improvement in correct processing of denials and closures. The Department appreciates the Florida Legislature’s support in sustaining this vital program and plans to work with lawmakers on how to best use the funds. In the past, the Legislature has allocated some of the funds for temporary staff, overtime and technology improvements to help deal with the largest caseload growth in the country. Lawmakers also awarded Automated Community Connection to Economic Self-Sufficiency (ACCESS) employees a $500 bonus for their efforts.
"I have so much pride and joy in helping folks, the financial award is a blessing but truly helping those on the other end of the line is the real reward,” said Ernest Hover, who works at the Ocala Call Center as an ACCESS employee. “I've been on that side of the fence,” Hover said, noting that he was unemployed before accepting his current DCF job. “My family was without rent, income or help."
Just four years ago, Florida’s error rate of 8.59 percent in food stamp processing was one of the highest in the nation. The bonus award is for an error rate of 0.70 percent.