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One wonders whether it finally dawned on the board of supervisors that the federal money behind food stamps might benefit the whole county, not only those who receive the aid. A 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture study maintains that $1.00 of food stamps has a $1.79 “multiplier effect” in a local economy, increasing both economic activity and jobs.

The same thing applies to cash aid to families with dependent children. The San Diego State University students’ report might even provoke suspicion that, in order to bring in federal dollars, the county is becoming too generous. A section in the study devoted to eligibility supervisors made me perk up. “Many workers note that there is a lot of pressure now to approve cases,” according to the report. “One-third of survey respondents say that supervisors at least sometimes tell them to grant cases they feel do not qualify, and 6% report that this happens always or most of the time. Workers express grave concerns about the accuracy of determinations, with so much pressure to meet the granting deadline and to raise numbers. Workers describe rapid last minute determinations without attention to detail, indicating that by saving money on staff, the taxpayer may be losing money on ineligible applicants, or that applicants who do qualify may be wrongly denied in the rush.”

“Overworked and Undermined” highlights lack of worker accountability as a major failing of the task-based approach to determining client aid. Workers can make changes to any case, but they are supposed to write notes on CalWIN to explain what they’ve done and why. They do not always write them, meaning the next worker who opens the case has to figure it out. The latest worker to look into a case is also responsible for fixing errors previously made. And before that is done, another applicant walks in the door.

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