After much debate, lawmakers last year agreed to move food stamp distribution in Idaho from all happening on the first of the month to being staggered over 10 days, but it hasn’t happened yet. “Although legislation was passed last year, funding was not,” Lori Wolff, Division of Welfare administrator, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning.
Some Idaho grocers have complained that the single-day distribution on the first of the month leads to an unmanageable rush at the supermarkets. Wolff said the division is moving forward with the change, and the legislation made clear that if it received a federal bonus for the SNAP or food stamp program, it should tap that to cover the costs. “The department did receive a bonus this year for being No. 1 in the nation (for timely processing) for the third year in a row,” Wolff said. So it’s proposing to tap that bonus money now, along with other funds, to complete the change.
“The department made the change to a single-day issuance to increase efficiency and reduce customer confusion at a time when our caseloads were increasing,” Wolff said. “We saved five positions” as a result. Now, it’s requesting to add back three, down from last year’s estimate of four; the decrease is because participation in the food stamp program in Idaho has fallen. The governor’s budget request asks for $78,900 in ongoing general funds, and spending authority for $589,400 from the bonus for one-time costs, for a total of $668,300. An annualization in fiscal year 2017 would add another $78,900 in personnel costs and $53,600 in operating funds, for a total ongoing cost of $211,400, half of that coming from state funds and half from federal.