The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

USDA Findings on DTA Food Stamp Access Barriers

Date: 
02/01/2006
Author: 
MLRI

MLRI memo on February 1st USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Report on the November Program Access Review, and attached report of findings of serious violations of federal food stamps requirements.

In November, FNS Regional Staff visited four local DTA offices to review both open and closed food stamp cases and Internet filed applications. FNS also relied on information provided by community agencies and local legal services offices through an extensive report prepared by MLRI. Virtually all of the barriers documented by MLRI and the Food Stamp Improvement Coalition in November 2005 are echoed in this report.

FNS found serious violations of the federal food stamp requirements. This Program Access Review was initiated as a result of ongoing complaints by the Food Stamp
Improvement Coalition and advocates assisting clients with on-line, fax and paper applications throughout the state. USDA's FINDINGS:

#1.  Local DTA office staff could not locate and provide all requested case records at the time of review. In the Dorchester DTA office, they could not find 28% of the case records at all. (pg 6)
#2. Internet applications are not screened for expedited service nor provided with the opportunity to participate within seven days of filing the application.FNS states that some local office staff "did not consider Internet applications to be real applications" and therefore did not process them timely.(pg 7)
#3.  Local DTA office staff do not schedule interviews for all applicant households.  They found cases in each of the four offices visited that "had been denied without an interview even being scheduled
for the initial application."

#4.  Local DTA office staff did not send a notice of missed interviews in all cases.

# 5.  In some offices, local office staff denied applicants for failure to provide verification and the applicants were not provided with a notice of required verification.

#6.  Applicants are required to file a second application when they return within 60 days of the original application. 

FNS also noted they could not reach some offices through the phone systems at all, nor get a Spanish speaking worker when requested.  They also advised DTA to eliminate the unnecessary, cumbersome additional "Blue Form."

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