Food Stamps Reaching More Coloradans; State Still Ranks 45th Nationally
DENVER – More Colorado families who qualify for food stamps, the program known federally as SNAP, are getting assistance. That's according to new data compiled by Hunger Free Colorado.
But, the state still ranks 45th nationally, and some 350,000 Coloradans are not getting help.
Kathy Underhill, the CEO of the group, says 44 of the state's 64 counties have made improvements in the percentage of eligible people who access the program.
"I think the big thing to remember is that behind all these numbers and percentages are real people," she said. "A lot of children, a lot of older adults, some folks with disabilities. And it means a lot of lost grocery sales and lost economic stimulus, as well as more people going hungry."
She points to a growing body of research showing the program improves health outcomes, boosts employment and helps kids do better in school. Underhill notes that despite improvements, Colorado is leaving millions of federal dollars on the table and loses nearly $270 million a year in grocery sales.
Underhill says increasing pay for frontline workers, better outreach and streamlining workflow helped Colorado reach 59 percent of people eligible for food stamps, up slightly from 56 percent a year ago. But the state still falls below the national average of 74 percent, and Underhill says one in eight Coloradans struggles with hunger.
"It would be wonderful if counties could figure out a way to be open in the evening or on weekends, and really think about things from the customer or client perspective, even more than they do now," she added.
Colorado made big improvements in how quickly counties process applications. The state has faced fines and a lawsuit in the past for not processing applications in a timely manner. In June of last year, Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB-190 into law, a measure aimed at improving the state's performance delivering services.