Food Stamp Program Draws Criticism

The Florida Department of Children and Families is trying to straighten out problems in its food stamp program after getting a warning shot from the feds.

A preliminary audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Florida’s food stamp program is headed for the worst error rate in the nation in terms of getting the right amount of benefits to its clients.

DCF blames the problem in part on the aftermath of Hurricanes Dennis and Wilma, when many staffers were trying to process emergency food benefits.

Louisiana and Mississippi weren’t held to the same standards because of their storm-related problems.

But DCF Deputy Secretary Don Winstead says they are reviewing their procedures at the feds’ urging.

“They were saying, hey, things are trending in a negative direction and we want to make sure you’re focused on that, and we’ve let them know, yes, we are focused on that and yes, we are paying attention.”

“It was an early alert and we’ve gotten that alert, we are focused on it, but we’re also asking them to give us the same consideration that they’ve given to other states on the Gulf Coast that were hit by storms last year.”

Florida could face fines from the federal government if it doesn’t bring its error rate within appropriate limits.

The national average for food stamp processing errors is 5.8 percent; Florida’s preliminary error rate was more than 9.3 percent.