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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces $2.3 million federal bonus to help feed hungry Illinoisans
USDA recognizes Illinois for excellent customer service in Food Stamp Program serving 560,000 families

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced Illinois has received an additional $2.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Stamp program to be re-invested in further enhancements to state programs.  The award was presented during a special ceremony at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago as Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams received the award from the USDA.
 
“More than a million Illinois residents rely on our assistance to help feed their families every day.  These funds will enhance technology and efficiency in the $1.4 billion program and make a big difference in improving the health and quality of life for low-income families in Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “This award means the federal government recognizes the great job we’re doing in Illinois through the Department of Human Services Food Stamp Program to make sure families who qualify get the help they need.”       
 
The 2002 Farm Bill authorized USDA to provide annual awards to states that demonstrate high or improved performance in the administration of the Food Stamp Program.  Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns awarded a total of $18 million to 13 states and Washington D.C. for providing timely services in 2005 and ensuring access to nutrition assistance in the Food Stamp Program. 
 
“I am pleased to award states that have demonstrated diligence and commitment in making sure the Food Stamp Program is carried out properly,” said Clarence Carter, national Food Stamp director, who presented the check to Secretary Adams and other DHS officials.  “These awards recognize states that have achieved their goals and improved their performance in providing access to nutrition assistance to families in need.”
 
The Food Stamp program is a federal nutrition program run by the IDHS that provides support to needy households and to individuals making the transition from welfare to work. The program serves as the first line of defense against hunger.  More than 1 million people in approximately 563,000 Illinois households participate in the program.
 
The program is for people who need extra assistance to buy food for themselves and their children.  Those interested in applying for food stamps can find more information and an on-line application at www.IDHSLINK.com or they may visit their local IDHS Family Resource Center.
 
In July, Illinois was commended by the USDA for continuing to achieve quality in its Food Stamp Program.  Illinois has shown dramatic improvement in calculating Food Stamp benefits paid to low-income residents and, for the past three years, has posted one of the highest payment accuracy rates among the nation’s largest states. 
 
Prior to 2003, Illinois faced penalties of up to $25 million from the USDA for Food Stamp payment errors.  Now, under the leadership of Gov. Blagojevich the Illinois program is seen as a national model for accuracy. 
 
“Families depend on Food Stamps to stretch their limited incomes, so improving customer service and accuracy are among our primary goals,” Adams said.  “At the same time, accuracy means less staff time and money spent on resolving payment errors.  We can expect to reach even more people as we begin to unveil our technology projects which include offering customers the option to apply for benefits online without having to submit the application in person.  DHS customers should be online, not in line.”


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