Sunday, October 2, 2011

State of Working Colorado: Food assistance

The 2007 recession accelerated Coloradans increasing reliance on food assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Since 2001, food stamp use in Colorado has nearly doubled. All told, state enrollment has increased 280,000 people, or 190 percent since January 2001. In November 2010, 435,000 Coloradans were enrolled in SNAP. Coloradans’ increased reliance on food assistance highlights the continued pain of the recession.

Food stamp enrollment does not fully reflect hunger in Colorado. The most recent count showed that only 52 percent of Coloradans eligible for SNAP were enrolled. That ranks 48th in the country among states.

Many in Colorado are not able to access the food assistance they need because of problems with the state’s system of administering the food assistance. Eligible clients are required to complete a 26 page application, show multiple forms of identification and lawful residence documents, and verify income every 3 to 6 months.

The Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) presents additional difficulties. CBMS is used to administer many of Colorado’s assistance programs, and problems with the system create barriers to access of benefits for families at poverty level. Introduced in the middle of the past decade, CBMS has consistently failed to deliver timely application processing, and has exhibited unreliable performance. Colorado needs to improve CBMS and its administration of assistance programs to ensure that eligible families get the help they need when they need it.


For more insights, including detailed policy recommendations for enhancing economic security for all Coloradans, check out the State of Working Colorado 2010.

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