|We've got NEWS|
|Monday, November 8, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
The review, conducted of a Milwaukee W-2 Agency in September, focused on the states Food Stamp program. Part of a nationwide effort by the USDA, the review looked at how accurately and timely Food Stamp applications were processed.
The USDA report praised several key areas in Food Stamp program delivery, including what they cited as "excellent" public notification practices. Public notification practices are important because they communicate that eligible families are entitled to food stamps.
Since the last USDA review in March, the Department distributed 12,000 new application forms for Food Stamps and Medicaid/Badger Care in Milwaukee County, 75,000 food stamp publications which provide information on food stamp rights and responsibilities, and 222 federal food stamp posters to display in waiting and reception areas.
The Department also conducted 116 statewide food stamp training classes to 2,319 workers.
The agency was also heralded for five "best practices," two of which include a 24-hour hotline to answer participant inquiries related food stamps, W-2, Medicaid and other services and an on-site child care center that allows parents to conduct eligibility reviews or use the job center more easily. Best practices are shared with the National USDA office to encourage replication in other states.
Other "Best Practices" noted by the federal officials include:
The reviewers also found that the office was run by very knowledgeable staff, the interview and application process works well, and applicants were encouraged to fill out paperwork necessary to get Food Stamps as soon as possible. The agency also took great steps to notify applicants of their right to apply for Food Stamps and that a person does not have to be on W-2 to receive Food Stamps.
"I am very encouraged by the positive aspects of this report. Hopefully, this is an indication that our outreach and other initiatives are working," Secretary Linda Stewart said.
Stewart noted many efforts underway to increase the usage of Food Stamps among eligible families. Milwaukee, Dane, Kenosha, Monroe and Oneida counties have outstationed eligibility workers to accept applications for Medicaid, Food Stamps and child care at community sites (i.e., hospitals, clinics, schools, food pantries) other than the local agency. There are over 40 outstation sites in Milwaukee alone and Milwaukee County is working with advocate groups to establish even more outstation sites in food pantries.
In September 1999, the Milwaukee W-2 agencies announced a $500,000 Food Stamp Program Outreach Initiative. This funding will be used to pay for the co-location of additional Milwaukee county staff at the W-2 agencies, and continue the operation of 20 outstation sites in Milwaukee through December 31, 1999.
Milwaukee W-2 agencies have developed a brochure and several information sheets on the Food Stamp Program to be distributed through the agencies, outstations, Milwaukee Public Schools and child care centers.
Stewart noted that not everything is these most recent USDA reviews is positive. Even though the agencies successfully implemented compliance measures in four of nine citings made only 7 months ago, USDA highlighted areas that continue to need improvement. In some circumstances, file documentation practices, eligibility application and reapplication procedures, policies for encouraging applicants to file a food stamp application, and procedures for pro-rating benefits and identifying families eligible for expedited service need improvement. In a letter sent to the W-2 agencies and the Milwaukee County Department of Human Services today, Secretary Stewart encouraged the agencies to work swiftly and cooperatively to make the improvements requested by USDA and noted that the Department would work with them to achieve full compliance.