Only government workers can interview Food-Share applicants the USDA warns Gov. Walker of Wisconsin. Using private companies to determine who is eligible for food assistance could result in the state losing $20 million.
In an April 14 letter to state Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith and Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, Ollice Holden, a Midwest administrator for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, warned that the work of interviewing applicants and deciding who is eligible for the Wisconsin FoodShare program needs to be done by public workers who are essentially civil servants. If not, he said, the state could lose some of the federal funds supporting FoodShare, the successor in Wisconsin to the food stamp program.
The FoodShare program in Wisconsin has more than 800,000 participants and distributes more than $1 billion a year to help low-income residents buy food. The program is largely funded by the federal government but is currently administered by the state and counties, with counties largely doing the work of interviewing applicants to see if they qualify for FoodShare and state health programs such as BadgerCare Plus.
In his letter, Holden said that the state was allowed to take over work now done by counties. But under federal rules only civil servants could have direct contact with applicants for and participants in FoodShare. Contractors can do some other tasks such as data entry and document scanning, he said.
[WI Counties lobbyist] Reinemann said county workers could do a better job of steering food stamp and health coverage applicants toward other services such as county transportation or child protective services. He said he was concerned that a for-profit company might be more focused on its bottom line than on priorities such as helping needy state residents or rooting out fraud.
If private sector workers wouldn’t be focused enough to make referrals, why trust them to do data entry and document scanning? Why let the private sector do anything, the greedy so-and-so’s. The blessed government worker in solidarity with his union brethren will raise their phone-clasping fists to defend the hungry and feed the poor. Unless, of course, there is some conflict with funding their pensions.
Let’s put an end to government locking out private sector workers.