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CRANSTON – Department of Human Services [DHS] Director Jane A. Hayward today announced a grant awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] to DHS’ Food Stamp Program totaling close to $800,000 to improve access and awareness of the Food Stamp Program for low-income households. Specifically, the grant will fund DHS’ efforts to simplify the food stamp application, and thereby remove a disincentive to participation in the program.

Grants were awarded to only five states out of the fifty that applied based on efficiency of the state program, clarity of the grant application, and desire to streamline the program and introduce innovative systems to simplify the food stamp application process. The grants are part of the Bush Administration’s commitment to make it easier for the working poor, elderly and legal immigrants to access food stamp benefits.

“We’re pleased and honored that the USDA has recognized Rhode Island’s efforts to ensure that all our eligible citizens have access to the Food Stamp Program. Providing sound nutritional assistance to eligible families in a streamlined process is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Donald L. Carcieri. “By partnering with the federal government, we are able to help give families the nutritional assistance that they need to enjoy healthier and happier lives. I congratulate Director Hayward and her dedicated staff for their continuing success in attracting public and private money into the state to help fund these critical programs.”

In an effort to improve access to food stamp benefits by eligible households, the 2002 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to award grants to test different approaches to simplify the application process. Through the use of innovative technology, states receiving the grants will improve the food stamp application process and work to identify and eliminate barriers to participation.

Director Hayward stated, “I am very pleased with our success in this national competition for scarce resources. Being one of only six grantees out of over 50 applicants shows that our aggressive search for funding outside the state to expand critical services has paid off. During the current tight budget situation, we need to maximize technology as a way to provide better service. This grant will mean anyone with access to the Internet can begin the process of applying for Food Stamps and other critical benefits offered by the Department. My staff deserves immense credit for their knowledge, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in winning this grant.”

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, is the cornerstone of the state’s nutrition assistance programs and provides crucial support to working poor and needy households. The program serves more than 20 thousand people in the state, which is about 60 percent of those who are eligible to receive benefits.

A summary of Rhode Island’s Grant is below:

Rhode Island Department of Human Services - $785,000 The project will redesign the state agency’s application and develop an on-line application system with scanner technology for entering verification documents into the system.

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