Iowa is one of five states to win a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help increase the use of food stamps. Iowa Department of Human Services director, Kevin Concannon says the grant is just over 882-thousand dollars.He says it’s a three-year grant that will allow them to establish a call center that people in all 99 counties can reach by phone or e-mail. Concannon says the state has wanted to set up a call center for some time.He says it’ll help people with their applications and questions without requiring them to come into a D-H-S office. He says that’s important, especially for people who’re homebound. Concannon says the grant will also help them improve the application process.He says they have a series of application forms and other forms that’re required, and he says they’re going to focus on simplifying those forms. He says they want to reduces the hassles people have to go through to get the assistance. Concannon says they’ll use some of the grant money to partner with “faith based” and non-government programs to reach out to the elderly to get them to sign up. He says only one out of 15 elderly adults that’re eligible for food help have signed up — and he says many could use the help. He says older people often cut back and don’t eat as well because they cut back their food purchases to meet high heating and prescription drug costs. Concannon says they’ve already increased sign up for food stamps with the move to electronic debit cards and with the help of an advertising campaign. He says they hope this grant will boost participation even more. He says they’re serving about 55-percent of the people who’re eligible, and the goal is to get to 80-percent over the next three years. He says they’ve increased participation by 30-thousand or 15-percent in the last year. Work is underway to find and train people to staff the call center, but an exact date for its start up isn’t set.
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