|Wednesday, September 20, 2000 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
WISCONSIN RANKS NUMBER ONE FOR INCREASING
FOOD STAMP PARTICIPATION
Leading the Effort to Make Work Pay Through Food Stamp Accessibility
MADISON Department of Workforce Development Secretary Jennifer Reinert announced today that Wisconsin ranks number one among all states for the largest increase in food stamp participation from June of 1999 to June of 2000, according to a study by the Food Research and Action Center. FRAC is a leading national organization working to improve public policies to eradicate hunger and under nutrition in the United States.
Food stamp participation in Wisconsin increased from 179,207 participants in June of 1999 to 197,205 participants at the same time this year. That represents a 10% increase. The next highest increase was Nevada at 5.7%.
"This is a true testament to the extensive outreach efforts that have taken place at the department to ensure people are aware of the availability of food stamp benefits and that it is easy for them to apply for benefits at a location close to home. This is especially true for our working families who need an efficient system to fit in with a busy lifestyle," said Reinert.
Some of the outreach initiatives include:
- A $1.9 million outstationing effort in Milwaukee, Dane, Kenosha, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Monroe and Oneida counties in order to increase the number of application and information sites for improved customer service access. There are currently 26 outstationing sites in Milwaukee alone.
- More than 20 local agencies have outstationed eligibility workers to accept applications at community sites. (i.e. food pantries, schools, community centers and clinics)
- DWD created television and radio advertisements that encourage individuals to apply for food stamps, highlighting the benefits of the new Electronic Benefits Transfer card.
- Milwaukee W-2 agencies announced a $500,000 food stamp outreach initiative.
- One Milwaukee agency spent $350,000 on advertising the availability of food stamps.
- DWD distributed food stamp publications and posters for display in local offices statewide.
- Currently, 33 local agencies are offering extended weekday business hours to provide additional customer service.
"Extended office hours and offices close to home have made a significant difference for working families who are using food stamp benefits as one of many supportive services available to help them climb out of poverty and become self-sufficient," said Reinert.
In addition, the department is conducting customer service reviews of new food stamp applications to ensure they are processed in a correct and timely manner, meeting monthly with Milwaukee community groups, the county human services department and W-2 agencies on customer service and public access issues, and developing a letter to send to specific closed food stamp cases to encourage them to reapply if pertinent to their situation.
"The best thing we can do is continue to spread the word that food stamps are available to families who need and want to take advantage of them, and follow-up with a process that works easily and efficiently," said Reinert.
Wisconsin was the only state in the Midwest to realize such a significant increase in food stamp participation. Illinois had a 2.5% increase, Indiana a 1.8% increase, Minnesota dropped by 2.2%, Ohio dropped 4%, and Michigan dropped 5.2%.
The national average was a 4.4% decrease in food stamp participation, with Delaware ranking worst at a 22.6% drop.
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