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Eye On Boise

Tue., Jan. 15, 2013, 7:50 a.m.

Questions, questions as lawmakers dig into Health & Welfare budgets…

Again this morning, the half of JFAC members who are first-timers on the joint budget panel have lots of questions about the budgets they’re being presented. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, asked, “What is the child support program? What is its purpose?” H&W officials explained that the program enforces collection of child support orders from the non-custodial parent to the custodial one, to lessen the need for public assistance.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “On food stamps you mentioned they must be a citizen or a legal immigrant. It’ my understanding from my work on the Health & Welfare Committee that that’s not true for a child.” Welfare Division Administrator Russ Barron responded, “That’s not correct. Everyone eligible for food stamps must be a citizen or a legal immigrant. … Only the ones who are citizens or are here legally will receive a benefit.”

Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, had a different kind of question: Why did Barron tell JFAC this morning that Medicaid is likely to grow by about 60,000 people in Idaho, when yesterday, the joint committee heard that the figure was likely to be 70,320? “Are we talking about two different numbers and we don’t really know what the real number is - 60,000 today, 70,340 yesterday?” Gibbs asked.

Barron smiled. “Now you have some sense of what we have been going through,” he said. The larger, 70,320 figure is correct, he said. “The number is 70 as far as individuals who are eligible because of these changes. The reason I’m using 60, is there are 60,000 absolutely totally new people that today are not in the system,” as far as the eligibility system overseen by Barron’s division. “In the 70,000 number, it represents about 10,000 individuals in the CHIP programs that we already have. Now, there’s some work to convert them, but it’s not quite the same as those who have never been on before. The total number that we’re looking at is the 70.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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