LOS ANGELES (AP) — Only half of eligible California residents got food stamps in 2008, below the national average of 66 percent, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The estimates from the Department of Agriculture show California’s participation rate was up two points from 2007 but was second to last among U.S. states, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Maine has the highest participation rate, at 94 percent of eligible residents. Only Wyoming’s rate was lower, at 46 percent.

State officials say the report is based on outdated census data and the figures should be calculated differently.

“The information is based on 2008 data, which is three years old, and it doesn’t reflect the impact of some of the recent program changes that were made to increase the access of needy eligible families and adults,” said Maricela Rodriguez, Department of Social Services spokeswoman.

According to the latest state data from October 2010, more than 3.5 million Californians got food stamps, up 46 percent from October 2008. However, the number of people who qualify also increased.

State officials say the figures should include about 1.2 million elderly and disabled people who get extra state money added to their federal Supplemental Security Income instead of food stamps. The report’s authors say they didn’t include those people in the number of eligible residents.

The Department of Agriculture has urged California to simplify the program’s administrative requirements. The federal government pays for the benefit and half administrative costs, with the rest shared between the state and counties.

California is the only state to require food stamp recipients to report their income every three months. Federal officials say reporting twice a year cuts the workload and prevents clerical mistakes that can cause people to lose their benefits.

California also requires applicants to be fingerprinted.

Sylmar Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes has introduced a bill to eliminate the fingerprint requirement and reduce income reporting. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar bills. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t said if he would support changes to the program.

Advocates for the poor said the state and counties need to do more to enroll needy families and individuals.

“There has been some progress in increasing the program’s visibility, but not nearly enough progress at simplifying the application” process, said Matthew Sharp with California Food Policy Advocates.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (6)
  1. Pat says:

    If you don’t fingerprint you’ll increase fraud

  2. Bee says:

    Fingerprints are required to obtain a Drivers License, and I agree that they should be required to obtain Food Stamps. The history of welfare fraud in this state speaks for itself.

    Cutting the administrative costs is a great idea. Why does California demand verification every four months instead of the Federal standard of six months? Busy work for Social Workers? I’m sure they have more important matters to administrate.

    1. Jazz says:

      I agree. Why do they demand verification at all? Wages are reported to the California Franchise Tax Board and the state can verify social security benefits with the federal government.

      If a person is getting paid under the table they won’t report their earnings anyway.

  3. Jazz says:

    I didn’t know that they fingerprinted food stamp applicants. They should fingerprint applicants for all public benefits. Like Pat stated it would elminate fraud.

    The one problem is that most of the programs are federally funded so if a person applies fand is fingerprinted or food stamps in California they can still go to Texas or Arizona where they don’t fingerprint. And even if they do the databases are not connected.

    There needs to be a national fingerprint database for it to really work.

  4. Not on Welfare says:

    I think they should fingerprint for all benefits and that includes going to cash a check or use a credit card. That IDIOT assemblyman Felipe Fuentes wants to eliminate fingerprinting because he knows alot of people on it should not be getting assistance because they are here ILLEGALLY.

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