|Michael F. Easley
For Release: IMMEDIATE
|Contact: Lori Walston|
N.C. Food Stamps Efficiency Nets $2 Million Bonus
RALEIGH — North Carolina recently won a $2 million bonus from the federal government for efficiency in processing food stamps applications.
The High Performance Bonus from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes North Carolina for being among the top six states in 2006 for timely processing of applications for Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), formerly known as the Food Stamps Program.
“I personally want to commend you for this achievement,” said Nancy Montanez Johner, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, in announcing the award Thursday.
North Carolina recorded a 96.66 percent timeliness rate, meaning applications were reviewed and benefits issued within 30 days — or within seven days for emergencies — 96.66 percent of the time.
Sherry Bradsher, director of the N.C. Division of Social Services, said the bonus reflected well on DSS staffs at the state and county levels.
“This type of award and recognition speaks to the dedication and hard work done by all who are serving low-income households through this program,” Bradsher said. “Children, our older populations and working families who are struggling in low-wage jobs rely on these benefits to make ends meet. I am proud that those benefits are being delivered with great accuracy and timeliness.”
The $2.07 million bonus is the second North Carolina received from USDA this year, on top of an earlier $4.02 million award for having one of the seven lowest payment error rates in the FNS program. The $6 million in bonus money will be applied to several projects, including upgrades to the DSS statewide computer network.
Karen Hoyle, president of the N.C. Association of County Directors of Social Services, noted that in applying the bonus money toward faster and more powerful information technology, North Carolina “will support more efficient operations in counties.” Automation of county DSS offices is essential, Hoyle said, “if they are going to be able to meet and surpass timelines in the future.”
North Carolina’s Food and Nutrition Services program was known as Food Stamps until earlier this year. The name change reflects program shifts over the years: a change in payment method from printed coupons or “stamps” to an ATM-like electronic benefits card, and a renewed emphasis on encouraging program recipients to eat more healthy, nutritious food.
The program is funded and regulated at the federal level by the USDA, administered at the state level by N.C. DSS and operated locally by county DSS offices. In July 2007, the most recent figures available, 883,722 North Carolinians received FNS benefits. In an average month, FNS benefits to North Carolinians total $80 million.
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