Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brownback administration drops federal grant program to help people apply for food stamps

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — Gov. Sam Brownback's administration has discontinued use of a federal grant program to help poor people apply for food stamps.

"We simply do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used to recruit people to be on welfare," said Theresa Freed, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Debbie Snapp, director of Catholic Social Service in Dodge City, which was to receive $14,506 of the grant funds, said Freed's description of the program was "unfortunate."

Snapp said most people who receive food assistance in her area are employed at low-wage jobs, and most use it only temporarily.

"The majority of people are working, or they are single moms with small children. In recent years, we've seen a lot more families come in. If you are hungry, you need help," Snapp said.

The five groups that were to receive the grants were notified about the decision to drop the program by DCF on Sept. 30, one day before the grants were to be renewed.

The grant funding, which Catholic Social Service received in the past, was used in outreach efforts to promote the availability of food stamps to those who were eligible, Snapp said.

She said dropping the grant represents "a trend to not help people find out what benefits they are eligible for."

She said Catholic Social Service will continue to do outreach because it's important. The group will have to find alternative funding, she said.

The other outreach grants that were dropped included Rice County, $16,267; USDA Food Bank, Wichita, $13,819; Harvesters, Kansas City, $14,314; and Community Access, Independence, $12,621.

Currently, nearly 320,000 Kansans receive food stamps, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Approximately half of those recipients are children.

Freed, with DCF, said Kansas joins South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming in not conducting any outreach using USDA federal funds.

She said the state's action doesn't prevent the former grantees from doing their own outreach.

"DCF believes that encouraging people to sign up for welfare benefits is not consistent with our position that welfare should be used temporarily and serve as a bridge to employment and self-sufficiency," Freed said.