SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced Illinois will receive a $4.3 million bonus from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for improving the accuracy rate in its Food Stamp Program. Illinois has shown dramatic improvement in calculating Food Stamp benefits paid to low-income residents and has one of the lowest payment error rates in the nation. In previous years, Illinois faced penalties of up to $25 million dollars from the USDA for Food Stamp payment errors. Now, the Illinois program is seen as a model for accuracy.
“In these tough economic times, it’s important to ensure that all who are eligible for the Food Stamp Program receive the benefits they need to feed their families,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “ I commend the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) for its excellent performance which not only helps Illinois families but also resulted in an increase of over $4 million for the State’s strained budget.”
The payment error rate indicates the percentage of errors in determining the correct amount of benefit for recipients. Illinois was one of 15 states and the District of Columbia to receive a bonus for improved performance in administering the Food Stamp Program. Illinois received the third highest bonus behind California and Texas.
Illinois’ payment error rate improved from 8.7 percent in Federal Fiscal Year 2002 to 4.8 percent in FFY 2003.
“Our improved accuracy is a result of our Food Stamp modernization efforts that have improved customer service and payment accuracy through use of technology. It means that we’re receiving an A grade of 95 percent when it comes to providing the correct benefit to our Food Stamp recipients,” said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. “This is important for families who depend on Food Stamps and at the same time it means less staff time and money spent on resolving payment errors.”
In August there were 493,533 households receiving Food Stamps in Illinois, an increase of nearly 12 percent over last year.