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Eye On Boise

Fri., March 8, 2013, 8:38 a.m.

Budget would bring back child-support enforcement for food stamp recipients

Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee sets agency budgets on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)
Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee sets agency budgets on Friday morning (Betsy Russell)

Though state law requires people on food stamps to cooperate with the Department of Health & Welfare’s child support services office to ensure that child-support payments are made to non-custodial parents, state budget cuts in 2010 cut out the staff that used to enforce that at the food stamp program. In the budget for the Division of Welfare set in JFAC this morning, that funding is restored next year, to the tune of $146,800 in state general funds and an equal amount in federal matching funds. That $293,600 allows five vacant positions to be restaffed and enforcement to resume.

Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, asked, “Is the effort going to be worth it? Are we going to make a difference to this program?” Russ Barron, head of the division, said yes. “Definitely we do know we make an impact here with families who are coming on and applying for services,” he said.

The Welfare Division budget includes all the eligibility determinations for Health & Welfare programs, including Medicaid, food stamps and more. The budget for the division for next year crafted by Sens. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow and Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, and Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, shows a 4.8 percent increase in state general funds, and a 3.8 percent increase in overall funds. It was approved on a 17-1 vote, with only Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, dissenting. She said, “I just want to say that morally I cannot fund a budget which complies with implementing the Affordable Care Act.”

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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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