Missouri Food Stamp Recipient Total Drops Significantly Again In October
The number of Missourians receiving food stamps decreased by 8,836 from September to October of this year, marking the first time Missouri had less than 900,000 receiving stamps since February 2010. The total is down close to 60,000 people from its peak during the depths of the Great Recession.
So, why are pantries across the state reporting demand equal to or greater than last year?
Perhaps part of the answer lies a few lines higher in the October 2013 Family Support Division/ MO HealthNet Division Monthly Management Report: applications received during October 2013 were down 14.2% from 10/12 and applications approved dropped 15.4%. More telling, in August 2013 DSS received 72,044 food stamp applications. This October the number was just 60,006.
As regular readers know, DSS has been rolling-out its latest re-organization scheme in recent months. The high-volume offices in St. Louis City and St. Louis County have become the Beta Testers with people seeking help being pointed towards racks of forms and folding tables in the lobby and told to do their best completing the paperwork. Their papers go into envelopes left in the “drop-box” and backroom workers then telephone them for follow-up to complete (and activate) the application. Many of us have heard horror stories from DSS “customers” (their word) stymied by the process. From August to September the drop in recipients in the city and county was 50% higher than the state average. (Take out those two monster county totals and the difference soars above 60%.) In October the state total dropped about 9/10ths of 1% while the city and county were each down about 1.2%, or, roughly 30% higher than the state average.
I’ll wager bagels and coffee that thousands of people who qualify for food stamps aren’t getting them because the new system isn’t working well.
Things could be made better. For example, I was in a meeting where it was suggested to DSS senior management that they could do bar code tracking of those application envelopes. Give the customer a receipt with a tracking number, scan the envelope into the system and then trace it from stop to stop. Nothing like that has happened even though DSS admits it loses stuff – Social Security Cards, paycheck stubs and utility receipts included.
I’ve also heard reliable reports from other parts of Missouri that “work flow” improvements have partially-completed applications being farmed out from busy offices to rural ones. Again, phone call follow-up at best.
Meanwhile, the number of people on Temporary Assistance is down 13% from October 2012 to 10/13. The monthly total of payments has dropped below $8 million – just over half what St. Louis County residents alone got in food stamp benefits.
Oct. 2013 Oct. 2012
Temporary Assistance 89,439 Total 102,853
59,518 Total Kids 67,908
$7.97 million Total $9.27
$228.36 Average $232.15
MO HealthNet 857,557 Enrolled 883,656
902,353 Total 925,667
$634.45 Per Person $707.53
$199.60 Managed $188.57
Care Per Person
Oct. 2013 Oct. 2012 Oct. 2011 Oct. 2010
Statewide Recipients 896,475 942,918 950,725 927,581
Benefit Total $115.2 million $120.9 $121.7 $116.1
Per Person $128.53 $128.27 $128.00 $125.19
Per Meal $1.38 $1.38 $1.38 $1.35
County Totals October 2013 Benefits Distributed
Jackson Co. 115,680 $15,523,075
St. Louis Co. 115,345 $15,486,300
St. Louis City 104,163 $14,721,150
Greene Co. 41,175 $ 5,254,663
Jefferson Co. 26,243 $ 3,406,872
Clay Co. 21,640 $ 2,749,088
Jasper Co. 21,343 $ 2,696,356
St. Charles Co. 20,498 $ 2,714,484
The top eight counties contain 52% of Food Stamp Recipients
The top three contain 37%