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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Food stamp 'accuracy' recognized

By Gordon Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state is getting a $1,476,000 shot in the arm after winning high marks in "accuracy" by the federal government for fair distribution of food stamps.

Eric Bost, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, presented the "bonus" check to Gov. Linda Lingle and Human Services Director Lillian Koller yesterday at Lingle's office.

Hawai'i's error rate dropped to 5.03 percent in fiscal 2002 from 6.53 percent the previous year. The percentage is the ninth best in the country. The average national error rate was 8.26 percent. Bost said Hawai'i is one of only 13 to receive the additional award this year.

The state's food stamp program served an average of 100,000 people who received an estimated $12.5 million each month during 2002.

Koller noted that the state had won a number of bonus awards in the past, even having the lowest error rate in the nation from 1990 to 1993, but needed to undergo corrective action from 1999 to 2001 when the error rating began to rise. Accuracy is measured by reviewing eligibility of those receiving assistance to see if they were given too much or too little. The corrective action involved improving case management skills, more supervisory reviews and providing workers greater focus, Koller said.

Lingle noted that California had a 17 percent error rate and is being forced to pay back over $150 million.

She praised human services workers who deal with the program on a daily basis. "I can see where it might be a little easy to err and say, 'Well, you don't exactly qualify but, you know, leave something out,' '' the governor said.