DCF Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Charlie Crist

George H. Sheldon
Interim Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Sarrah Troncoso
September 16, 2008 850-488-4855

Children and Families Earns $5.4 Million Bonus from USDA
~ Agency Boasts the Most Improved Food Stamp Payment Accuracy in the Nation ~

     Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida's Department of Children and Families received a high performance bonus check in the amount of $5,481,910 today from USDA's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Kate Houston in a ceremony in Tallahassee. The check was for the Department's improved payment accuracy rate of 95.85 percent in issuing food stamp benefits in Federal Fiscal Year 2007. The National Payment Accuracy Rate for the Federal Fiscal Year 2007 was 94.36 percent. Department interim Secretary George Sheldon was on hand to accept the award on behalf of the state and recognized Department employees for their tireless efforts to improve the ACCESS Florida Program.

     "I applaud the work of the many staff of the State of Florida who have worked diligently to improve the accuracy of their Food Stamp Program." Houston said. "To run a program of this size, it takes dedicated men and women that pay close attention to detail, are compassionate, patient, and most of all, perform exceptionally so that food stamp recipients receive the benefits to which they are eligible."

     USDA awards high performance bonuses to states that demonstrate high or improved performance in administering the Food Stamp Program. Florida is being recognized because the state ranks first among the three states with the most improved payment accuracy rate during Fiscal Year 2007. Florida's payment accuracy rate improved from 91.41 percent in Fiscal Year 2006 to 95.85 percent in Fiscal Year 2007. In accepting the award, Children and Families interim Secretary George Sheldon credited state and local workers with having earned it.

     "I want to congratulate our employees who work hard each and every day to deliver these benefits to the residents of Florida who need them," Sheldon said. "As the demand for public assistance continues to grow, our frontline workers do an outstanding job of making sure that our most vulnerable residents-especially children and people over age 50-get the help they need to live and thrive."

     The award winning ACCESS Florida Program has provided food stamp assistance to 2,284,910 individuals since last September. In recent, months the demand for food stamps and other forms of assistance has grown. To meet this increasing need, ACCESS Florida employees have worked to improve service through technology and innovation.

     ACCESS Florida is currently testing a new program that will allow clients to check the status of their case online around the clock. Additionally, the Department has worked to rewrite in clear, understandable, plain language all of the Program's customer notifications, ensuring more effective communication with our consumers.

     USDA said it is pleased to recognize and congratulate Florida for demonstrating diligence and commitment in the administration of the Food Stamp Program to ensure all eligible persons have better access to food and a more healthful diet through its food assistance programs.

     The Food Stamp Program is the foundation of the federal nutrition assistance safety net. It provides support to needy households and to those making the transition from welfare to work, enabling low-income families to buy nutritious food. In May 2008, slightly more than 28.4 million individuals participated in the program across the nation. Providing nutrition assistance to low-income families, individuals and children is part of USDA's commitment to reduce hunger and promote healthy eating habits.


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