The state of Iowa’s improving the way it handles aid to low-income families. Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says the state has learned from federal foodstamp administrators that once again it has exceeded the average in accuracy. The error rate was 6.44 percent, a couple percentage points below the national average, and puts Iowa in 17th place compared with last year when Iowa ranked 20th. Munns says the federal progam, administered at the local level, is very complex. The formula for foodstamp eligibility includes things like number of people sharing meals, their household, childcare and medical expenses, assets and other things that can be “hard to nail down.” Munns says the foodstamp program is labor-intensive, requiring constant re-checking and updating client information — so training is a big factor. He says they’re always improving computer programs and trying to screen for people getting benefits they shouldn’t, or those getting amounts that are too high or low, and he calls it “a moving target.” In the past fiscal year, Munns says the state can take pride in improving its performance despite some big challenges. Not only did Iowa do better in accuracy rate and national rankings, but during that time more people than before qualified for benefits. In the last federal fiscal year, a monthly average of 141,000 Iowans got foodstamps, higher by 17,000 a month than the year before, and in that time the agency had NO additional people to handle the work. In the 1990s, the DHS struggled with food stamp accuracy and was sanctioned several times. The worst year was in fiscal 1998, when the error rate reached 13.14 percent, compared to a national average that year of 10.7 percent.
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