News Releases

September 15, 2008

Governor Douglas Expands Food Assistance Eligibility

Up to 30,000 More Households May be Eligible for Benefits

Burlington, Vt. — To help struggling households and seniors on fixed incomes address rising fuel and food costs, Governor Jim Douglas and Lt. Governor Brian Dubie today unveiled a new initiative to expand Food Stamp Program (FSP) eligibility to as many as 30,000 additional Vermonters.

The plan is the most recent addition to the Governor’s Fuel and Food Partnership—a collaboration of public and private partners charged by the Governor with marshaling every available resource to help Vermonters address the rising cost of fuel and food. The partnership is co-chaired by Lt. Governor Dubie.

“Vermonters are feeling the pressures of the national economic slowdown in many ways, and low-income Vermonters and seniors on a fixed income are particularly stressed by the high costs of transportation, home heating fuel, and food,” said Governor Jim Douglas. “Through the efforts of my Fuel and Food Partnership, my administration, the Legislature and our community partners are dedicated to ensuring that no Vermonter goes cold or hungry this winter, or any winter. This expansion of the Food Stamp Program will assure that more Vermont children and families receive financial assistance to purchase high quality, nutritious food during this challenging time.”

Governor Douglas said the expansion of the FSP eligibility includes two key provisions: (1) raising the current household income limit of 130 of the federal poverty level (FPL) up to 185 FPL; and (2) eliminating the current asset test to determine eligibility for affected households. The current asset rules limit eligibility by imposing resource limits which serve as a disincentive for lower income households to build savings for emergencies, home improvements, or vehicle repairs – all of which support self-sufficiency.

The federal income limit of 130 percent FPL makes many low-income Vermonters ineligible for food assistance, even though they may have high expenses. Raising the income test to 185 percent of FPL aligns the food stamp program gross income test with that of many other benefits programs such as Farm to Family, Reduced School Meals, Commodity Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and VHAP for parents and caretaker relatives with dependent children in their households.

“We’re very excited about this proposal, which gives thousands more Vermont families access to food assistance,” said Department of Children and Families Commissioner Steve Dale. “At present, there are over 28,000 households with over 57,000 individuals receiving food stamps in Vermont. This expansion could allow up to 30,000 more households to access food stamps, or ancillary benefits such as telephone Lifeline and Link Up credits, and free school meals for their children.”

During state fiscal year 2008, Vermont households received nearly $60 million in food stamp program benefits. The new program expansion could mean up to an additional $12 million per year in direct food assistance to low-income Vermont families, with an average benefit in the region of $90 per month.

“This expansion is extremely important for the 19,000 children in Vermont who are hungry right now,” added Dorigen Keeney, Director of Public Policy and Research for the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, an organization which has advocated for this eligibility expansion. “Further, this expansion of the food stamp program will help alleviate the food crisis that many more children may otherwise face this winter.”

The Governor and key Fuel and Food Partnership stakeholders will collaborate to create an outreach plan to connect with Vermonters who may be eligible for this expanded program and to work out details necessary to ensure the program’s success. The Department for Children and Families, which administers the federal FSP, plans to put the expanded program eligibility into effect on January 1, 2009.

ABOUT THE FUEL AND FOOD PARTNERSHIP

Every Vermont family is facing the realities of soaring fuel costs—but Vermont is fighting back. That is why I launched a comprehensive and collaborative program—the Vermont Fuel and Food Partnership—to help Vermonters address increasing home heating, gasoline and food costs by marshalling every available resource in our state,” said Governor Douglas. “Solving these problems requires an effort that goes beyond government alone and we're fortunate to have a strong network of community-based organizations and programs to help Vermonters when times get tough. Coupled with the programs and service available from local, state and federal governments and our other private and non-profit partners, we can address this challenge and succeed.”

The Fuel and Food Partnership brings together all of the creativity, compassion, information and resources in Vermont to ensure that we make the most of every dollar and that no Vermonter is left in the cold. It will provide Vermonters, through a single entry, access to every available option and empowers them with the knowledge they need to lower their energy bills and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

“I established this task force, co-chaired by Lt. Governor Brian Dubie, to focus every effort and every resource Vermont can bring to bear to help manage the effects of higher energy costs on Vermont families,” the Governor added. “These are difficult times for working families, but Vermont has faced these kinds of challenges before, and is a national example of how deep community roots and a strong commitment to seeking new solutions can resolve even the most difficult challenges. I know that the strength and determination of Vermonters will lead us past these difficult times and leave us with a state that is stronger and more energy independent than ever before.”

For more information, visit: http://helpforvt.org/

Source: Office of the Governor
Last Updated at: September 15, 2008 09:04:27