Santa Clara County's efforts to help residents get access to healthier food met with praise from Federal and California State agencies.
For the second year in a row, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Social Services presented the County of Santa Clara with an award recognizing the Social Services Agency’s exceptional administration of the CalFresh Program (formerly known as the Food Stamps Program). The award was presented during the Board of Supervisors meeting.
“Team effort and partnerships within the units and divisions responsible for the administration of the CalFresh Program continue to pay off,” said Santa Clara County Social Services Director Bruce Wagstaff. “I am inspired by the dedication and rigor of our staff. They are resilient when it comes to learning about eligibility regulations, reviewing cases and following up with clients to help maintain accuracy and to ensure this program is serving the right people.”
CalFresh seeks to improve the health of low-income individuals and families by supplementing their income with benefits to purchase food that is more nutritious. The average amount of CalFresh benefits received per household is about $200 per month. The money can be used to buy food at most markets and can also be used to buy seeds to grow food.
“Santa Clara County residents should be extremely proud of their Department of Employment and Benefit Services’ stewardship of the CalFresh program in Federal Fiscal Year 2011,” said Dennis Stewart, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Division Director for the Food and Nutrition Services Western Region. “If the country as a whole had achieved the same high accuracy rate as Santa Clara County, there would have been a savings to the taxpayers in misissued benefits of more than $2.3 billion nationally. This is a tribute to the County’s compassion for feeding the needy while safeguarding Federal tax dollars.”
The County must accurately identify those who qualify for assistance or face stiff consequences. If the State’s error rate is above the national average, the State could face millions of dollars in sanctions and the penalty could be shared by the County. The County reported an accuracy rate of 99.41 percent in 2011, higher than both the State and national percentages.
“This award acknowledges the County’s commitment to support residents often struggling to bring food to the table,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee. “Receiving this recognition two years in a row is the result of working smart to provide the best service to individuals and families in need, and at the same time, save millions of taxpayer dollars.”
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