Food Stamp Impact Reports

View report highlights and citations; how Colorado and all 64 counties (report and map) are performing; why it matters to Coloradans, communities and our economy; proposed solutions to improve food stamp administration and access; and how you can take action to address hunger.


Food-Stamps-Fuel-Healthy-CO


Everyone is at their best when they have enough to eat, but one in seven Coloradans struggle with hunger, not always knowing when or where they will get their next meal.

 

On a tight budget, Coloradans often have to choose between paying rent and heat or buying food. They may have to turn to already-strained charitable and faith-based groups distributing food, just to make ends meet. Fortunately, resources like food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, exist to ensure people can purchase groceries.

Shopping-Cart-Food-IconFood stamps provide eligible families with modest monthly funds to purchase food—averaging $1.40 per person, per meal— using a pre-loaded Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. The majority of those eligible are children, seniors, working adults, veterans and those who are disabled. The program not only provides access to the fuel needed for healthier lives but also helps create jobs, increase grocery sales and support local food producers.

Every program funded by taxpayers should be transparent and accountable to the community and those it seeks to serve. Nationally, food stamps is one of the most vigorously regulated benefits with 92% of federal program spending going directly to those in need and a fraud rate of only about 1%.

Despite the effectiveness and efficiency of the program nationally, Colorado’s state-supervised, county-based system underperforms in some of the key metrics. Colorado also loses more than $686,000,000 in grocery sales annually, funds that could help boost our state’s economic health. We can improve upon enrolling those eligible, as well as meeting the federal requirement of 95% for timely and accurately processed applications, because food stamps create opportunity and help ensure that all can enjoy a stable, prosperous future.

Learn more about the report highlights; how Colorado and all 64 counties are performing; why it matters; proposed solutions; and how you can take action to address hunger in your community and across the state.

The solution does not require any new programs or tax increases, only increasing efficiency, improving customer service and streamlining the program’s administration. Let’s make it a goal to create stronger communities and a brighter future for all Coloradans.

 


Aiming for Average:
New Data Shows Need to Improve Food Stamp Administration, Access Across Colorado


New data highlights longstanding issues with the administration of food stamps in Colorado. We released “Food Stamp Impact Reports” for all 64 counties on Thursday, Jan. 28, that detail the efficiency and effectiveness of the state-supervised, county-administered program. While some Colorado counties meet national averages and federal guidelines, the overall data shows below-average performance at the state and county levels.

The newly released Food Stamp Impact Reports compare each county’s performance with other counties of similar size—small, medium and large—and shows the state and national averages for the following: enrollment, timely and accurate application processing, expenditures and economic impact. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent, third-party entity, performed enrollment data analysis for the reports. The data analysis follows the same method as the USDA performance measures.

Highlights from the released data include (based on 2012 USDA PAI):

  • Colorado continues to rank 45th in the nation for access to food stamps and falls well below the national average of 75% for enrollment at only 57%, with nearly half of those eligible missing out on the nutrition they need.
  • Colorado leaves millions of dollars on the federal table and loses more than $686 million annually in grocery sales.
  • Colorado’s state-supervised, county-based system underperforms in some of the key metrics, including enrollment and accurate application processing, despite the effectiveness and efficiency of the program nationally.
  • There is disparity among county performance and costs, such as:
    • Enrollment ranges from 10 to 83 percent of eligible Coloradans.
    • The cost for a county to enroll amongst the “Big 10” counties ranges from $286.95 to $80.63 per recipient.

We now have consistent, relevant data that previously has not been available to Colorado counties. It’s an opportunity to build a shared vision for improving food stamp access, enrollment and administration, so all Coloradans can get the fuel they need to reach their potential.

 


How is Colorado Performing?


Colorado Food Stamp Performance 1-16

 

Though Colorado strives to be the healthiest state, we continue to rank 45th in the nation for food stamp access and fall well below the national average of 75% for participation, with nearly half of those eligible missing out on the nutrition they need to fuel needed for stronger bodies and minds.

During the expansion of Medicaid since 2012, Colorado has enrolled more than 631,000 new individuals in Medicaid, while actually losing more than 2,000 individuals from the food assistance program. However, up to 63% of all newly enrolled Medicaid individuals under 60 years of age are eligible for food stamps. Instead of dual enrollment, resulting in benefits that would lower healthcare costs and bring in an estimated $686,000,000 a year in additional grocery sales, only Medicaid has experienced growth.

 


How is Your County Performing?


Map.png

Click the map to find and view data by Colorado county.

View your county’s impact report and find out how it ranks compared to other counties of similar size—large, medium or small.

 

Each report also includes the food stamp data for the county and state, including participation, performance and economic activity. (An executive summary, along with sources for the large, medium, and small county data are also available via the link above and below.)

The released data highlights longstanding issues that have plagued the food stamp program in Colorado. The Center on Budget Policy & Priorities—an independent, third-party entity that the counties and state have trusted—performed and provided the data analysis, and it’s based on how the USDA measures and determines bonus awards.

With this relevant and consistent information now available, we can work together to nurture a shared vision for improving food stamp enrollment across the state and tailor best practices to overcome local barriers, so all Coloradans can get the fuel they need to thrive and reach their potential.

 


Why It Matters?


Food Fuels Body of Research Wall

 

“Colorado aims to become the healthiest state in the nation, but that simply can’t be accomplished when one in seven Coloradans struggle with hunger and we don’t have a strong, effective food stamp program to provide nutritional support,” said Kathy Underhill, executive director for Hunger Free Colorado. “Food is essential to fueling better, healthier lives, stronger communities and a thriving economy.”

A growing body of national research shows the importance of food stamps’ role in supporting the well-being of individuals and communities, such as improving short-term and long-term health outcomes, lowering health care costs, promoting work and economic stability, enhancing academic performance and early childhood education outcomes, helping seniors maintain their independence, and boosting economic development, such as grocery sales.

“No one should go hungry, which is why we hope to see genuine action and results for the people of Colorado,” said Underhill. “If the state and counties will prioritize food access, we not only can avoid future federal fines but ensure all Coloradans have the chance to thrive.”

 


What Are the Solutions?


Food Fuels Access to Food Stamps CapitolReaching average performance and avoiding future federal fines can be achieved without any new programs or tax increases. Based upon all of the available data and research, Hunger Free Colorado recommends the following solutions to benefit all in the state:

  • Bring Colorado participation up to the national average of 74 percent by improving access and enrollment
  • Meet the federal requirement of 95 percent for timely and accurately processed applications
  • Increase transparency and efficiency within the state-supervised, county-based system
  • Streamline the administration of food stamps and clarify expectations for the state and counties
  • Increase capacity at Colorado Department of Human Services for better oversight
  • Improve customer service for Coloradans, regardless of age, background and zip code

No one should go hungry, which is why we hope to see genuine action and results for the people of Colorado. If the state and counties will prioritize food access, we not only can avoid future federal fines but ensure all Coloradans have the chance to thrive.

 


What Can You Do?


Speech BubbleUse your voice to help strengthen your community and ensure all Coloradans have access to nutritious food!

 

With community members and local organizations demonstrating broad support for food assistance, we can demonstrate how much the administration of food stamps matters to Coloradans and why it should be a priority in our state and within our counties.

Here’s how you can take action:

  • Contact your state legislators via email or phone to let them know addressing hunger should be a top priority and an efficient, effective food stamp program is one of the primary ways to ensure no one goes hungry across Colorado. Use our online look-up to easily find their contact information.
  • Receive our advocacy alerts and updates. Sign-up to be notified when lawmakers are considering bills and proposals that impact those struggling with hunger.
  • Amplify your voice online. Use #copoliticis and #EndHungerCO. Tweet to @CO_CDHS.
  • Write a letter to the editor, voicing why Colorado and your community needs to make an investment in addressing hunger and ensuring we have a strong, effective food assistance program.
  • Attend a community meeting with elected officials in attendance. This is a powerful way to engage with key decision makers. Share what hunger looks like and why food stamps matter in your community; talk about the challenges and successes within the current administration of the program; and discuss possible solutions with key decision makers.
  • Discuss the issue of hunger and share your county’s impact report with others. Talk about what hunger looks like, why food stamps matter and what possible solutions exist. (Find out more about the impact of hunger and why nutrition programs like food stamps matter.)

 


Report Citations


Check-markHere are the sources for the large, medium, and small county data:

The data citations for the 10 Large Counties are as follows:

  • Number of Individuals Enrolled: Point-in-time count from CDHS, “FNS 388,” April 2015
  • Total Benefits Issued Annually: State Fiscal Year 2014, CDHS, “FNS 388,” SFY2014
  • Cost of Program Administration: State Fiscal Year 2014, CDHS, “SNAP County Admin,” Account Keys: 47400, 47401, 43340, 43341, 49522, 43180
  • Percentage of Eligible Enrolled: Sources include CDHS and USDA, with Program Access Index (PAI) calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) using 2013 Census data (*See below).
  • Timely Processing: CDHS, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Rankings for the 10 Large [Counties] based on the Court Reports.” November 2014 – October 2015
  • Accurate Processing: CAPER reports for October 2013 – December 2014 (five quarters), CDHS, “SNAPQA Monthly Report.” Inverse error rates used to show accuracy. (For example, if your county had a 25% error rate, it is shown as a 75% accuracy rate.)
  • Lost Grocery Sales Annually: Source is SNAP Program Access Index, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities identifying eligible but not enrolled by county, multiplied by USDA/FNS information on average benefit amount in the State of Colorado for Calendar Year 2013.

The data citations for the 22 Medium Counties are as follows:

  • Number of Individuals Enrolled: Average from 2009-2013, CDHS, “FNS 388”
  • Total Benefits Issued Annually: CDHS, “FNS 388”; SFY2014
  • Cost of Program Administration: CDHS, State “SNAP County Admin,” Account Keys: 47400, 47401, 43340, 43341, 49522, 43180; SFY2014
  • Percentage of Eligible Enrolled: Sources include CDHS and USDA, with Program Access Index (PAI) calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) using 2009 to 2013 Census data for small and medium-sized counties (*See below).
  • Timely Processing: CDHS, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Rankings for the 22 Medium [Counties] based on the Court Reports”; November 2014 – October 2015
  • Accurate Processing: CDHS, “SNAPQA Monthly Report” for five quarters (CAPER reports October 2013-December 2014). Inverse error rates used to show accuracy. (For example, if a county had a 25% error rate, it is shown as a 75% accuracy rate.) Medium counties had an insufficient sample size to include.
  • Lost Grocery Sales Annually: Inverse of Percentage Eligible Enrolled multiplied by USDA/FNS “SNAP Average Monthly Benefit Per Person” report for Colorado Calendar Year 2013 multiplied by 12 months.

The data citations for the 32 Small Counties are as follows:

  • Number of Individuals Enrolled: Average from 2009-2013, CDHS, “FNS 388”
  • Total Benefits Issued Annually: CDHS, “FNS 388”; SFY2014
  • Cost of Program Administration: CDHS, State “SNAP County Admin,” Account Keys: 47400, 47401, 43340, 43341, 49522, 43180; SFY2014
  • Percentage of Eligible Enrolled: Sources include CDHS and USDA, with Program Access Index (PAI) calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) using 2009 to 2013 multi-year Census data for small and medium-sized counties (*See below).
  • Timely Processing: CDHS, “Food Assistance 2015 Timeliness-SMALL Counties”; November 2014 – October 2015
  • Accurate Processing: CDHS, “SNAPQA Monthly Report” for five quarters (CAPER reports October 2013 – December 2014). Inverse error rates used to show accuracy. (For example, if a county had a 25% error rate, it is shown as a 75% accuracy rate). Small counties had an insufficient sample size to include.
  • Lost Grocery Sales Annually: Inverse of Percentage Eligible Enrolled multiplied by USDA/FNS “SNAP Average Monthly Benefit Per Person” report for Colorado Calendar Year 2013, multiplied by 12 months.

* Methodological Note: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated the Program Access Indices (PAI) using the same methodology and sources that the USDA uses to calculate the PAI for state SNAP performance bonuses, with the exception that 5-year data is used for smaller counties, for which 1-year data are not available, and there are no adjustments made for disaster assistance or participants in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, which are not available at the county level. The PAI measures the average monthly number of SNAP recipients as a share of people with income below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.  It is intended to be an indicator of the degree of access low-income people have to SNAP, rather than a strict measure of eligibility.

The fact sheets rank counties based on the midpoint estimate of a range of PAI estimates. The estimates are a ratio of administrative data to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is based on a sample. While rankings are illustrative of the overall position of the midpoint estimate, counties may not be statistically different from others with similar rankings.

Here is a link to a state table with 90% confidence intervals for each estimate.  To give a sense of the statistical significance of the difference between each county and others, these tables include an indicator of whether the county is statistically higher, lower, or not different from the state PAI calculated using the same data and methods.