Florida best in food stamp efficiency

Feds award state $8 million bonus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida is now being recognized for how well it processes food stamp applications. It's ranked the best in the nation.

Just for some perspective, ten years ago, one in 25 people in Jacksonville was on food stamps. Now that number is one in five.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Florida will receive an $8 million bonus as a result of the exemplary work of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

DCF says this recognition shows that it ensures taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. For the sixth year in a row, Florida DCF's accuracy in correctly processing food assistance applications is receiving accolades and bonus money from the federal government.

"This is a tribute to the hard work of DCF front line staff. They're very committed to quality, they're committed to being responsible to the taxpayers and making sure the people don't get more than the benefits they would qualify for," said John Harrell, who works with the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida's application error rate is .77%; the lowest in the nation and down from .87% last year.

"That's a big deal because it shows our taxpayers that we are processing these applications accurately. The federal government is saying that people are only getting the benefits they qualify for and nothing more," said Harrell.

The food assistance program is a federal program that states are responsible for administering based on guidelines set forth by the feds.

The Mandarin Food Bank recently began helping people sign up for food stamps after it was approached by the program.

"We were given training and we also now are given updates and periodically we get visits from them and I think they're very efficient," said Executive Director of the Mandarin Food Bank, Bonnie McNulty.

Harrell says DCF thoroughly reviews applications and checks back in with family's who get assistance every six months to see if income or other circumstances have changed.

"Here in Jacksonville, about a third of all children were helped by food stamp benefits during the most recent DCF fiscal year and about a quarter of all people," said Harrell.

The $8 million federal bonus money will be spent at the discretion of the Florida legislature.