Department Posts for Additional Food Stamp Benefit Employees
The Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced a number of policies to expand awareness of and increase enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as the food stamp benefit, reaching as many eligible households as possible. In addition, during these difficult economic times, DHS is taking advantage of new federal guidelines and improving internal infrastructure capacity in order to expand eligibility, ease access to and increase participation in the SNAP Program, in particular to target greater participation of elderly and disabled, unemployed, and low-income working families.
“The goal of these initiatives is to ensure that eligible individuals and families are receiving the necessary nutritional means to live a healthy lifestyle, provide information to Rhode Island families in need, and increase the federal dollars coming into Rhode Island’s economy,” said Gary D. Alexander, Acting Secretary, Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Rhode Island is working hard to ease access to food assistance for recently unemployed individuals, elderly populations, and individuals with disabilities. Program simplification is the quickest way to serve those most in need.”
DHS will streamline the process for identified populations by creating a shorter, more simplified application for the elderly and eliminating the asset test for appropriate populations during this economic downturn. To further streamline the application process. DHS will seek to adopt a 12- month recertification requirement, versus the current six-month recertification. The initiatives will require rule changes under the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, and it is the intention of DHS to invoke the emergency rule-making provision under Rhode Island statute 42-35-3.
DHS has also submitted a waiver to the USDA’s Food Nutrition Services (FNS) seeking the ability to waive face-to-face application requirements in favor of telephone interviews. While the initiative is pending federal approval, DHS has started to schedule staff training to manage phone interviews properly.
To enhance communication among new populations, specifically the recently unemployed, DHS has partnered with the Department of Labor and Training to provide information on SNAP to those receiving unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor and Training will now include informational brochures on the SNAP program in its mailings to new unemployment insurance recipients. Through this ongoing effort, the department expects to distribute approximately 20,000 of these brochures over the next month.
In anticipation of the above initiatives, an increase in applications, and the additional federal funding, DHS announced the posting of an additional nine food stamp technicians’ positions to ensure applications are processed in a timely manner. “We have reached out to the state employee unions to seek their assistance in expediting the hiring process for these positions, and are very appreciative of their support. We all recognize the need to have employees in place and properly trained to manage the public’s needs,” said Alexander.
“We believe these initiatives will help those in most need and those who may not realize they are eligible for the program,” continued Alexander. “This is a great first step, and I would like to commend the hard work and dedication of the DHS staff who have been preparing these measures for some time. Over the next several months, it is our intention to continue to make improvements to simplify the application process, modernize the delivery systems, and to further engage and train community partners.”