September 27, 2004
HHS Receives High Performance Bonus From USDA
Augusta: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that Maine will receive a $645,236 bonus from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for improvements made to the Food Stamps program.
Eric M. Bost, USDA Under Secretary, congratulated Maine for its hard work in improving its program in a letter to Governor John E. Baldacci earlier today. “I personally want to commend you for this achievement,” Mr. Bost stated, “and encourage you to continue your efforts to improve your participant access rate and the overall administration of the Food Stamps program.”
Over the past year, HHS made one of the best improvements in the nation, behind only Oklahoma and South Carolina, in its participant access rate. The ratio measures the number of Food Stamps participants to the number of persons in poverty. Maine’s rate increased from 68% in 2002 to 92% in 2003.
“In difficult economic times, Food Stamps serve as a vital security net for struggling families,” said HHS Commissioner John R. Nicholas. “Our goal is to provide this valuable resource to our most vulnerable citizens and, moreover, to do so as responsibly and efficiently as possible.”
The Food Stamps Program, which is 100% federally funded, provides more than $12,000,000 per month to low-income people in Maine to purchase necessary food items. Currently, 77,311 families receive benefits, representing a total of approximately 150,000 people, nearly half of whom are children. Approximately 30% of these families had earned income, which means that at least one member of the household was working.
Barbara Van Burgel, Acting Director of the Bureau of Family Independence, which runs Food Stamps, took the opportunity to congratulate her staff on their work. “These accomplishments say a great deal about the competency and dedication of the people who are managing our welfare programs,” she said. She also noted that Maine has found success in running Food Stamps largely due to effective organization. “We have an integrated system with one worker for one family and, depending upon the program, a required orientation for anyone seeking assistance. That way,” Van Burgel added, “when people apply for TANF or MaineCare we can also explore their eligibility for Food Stamps and this makes our overall assistance program much more responsive.”
USDA officials have indicated that they will be transferring the funds to HHS sometime in the near future.