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In October 2008, Washington broadened eligibility for the Basic Food Program by increasing the gross income cap from 130% to 200% of the federal poverty level. Prior to the change, the gross income limit for a family of 4 was $26,850. Now a family of 4 with an income up to $41,300 can qualify for the program. Based on the experiences of other states that have raised the income cap, the state’s Department of Social and Health Services estimates
that 23,000 additional households including about 50,000 people could enroll in the program (an increase of 8.4%). More than 15,000 new families enrolled in October. Participation grew another 1.7% in November 2008.
The federal program allows states to set a higher income ceiling to account for higher costs for housing, transportation and other living expenses. While federal funds pay for the program, the state shares administrative costs and allocated $1.1 million to hire 28 new DSHS employees to manage the larger enrollment. However, by increasing enrollment, the program will bring more federal dollars into the state. During the last fiscal year, the state received $680 million in federal food assistance and it is estimated that every $5 generates $9.20 in local economic activity.
Applications can be submitted in person, by mail, or online. To encourage enrollment, DSHS launched the “Take a Fresh Look: Basic Food” marketing campaign. A new web site http://www.foodhelp.wa.gov/ provides a user friendly tool to learn about and apply for food assistance programs in the state. Printable marketing materials about the new eligibility standards are also provided on the site in nine languages. The changes have also been publicized in public service announcements and in a YouTube video (watch it below).
Featured: Winter 2008
Individuals and families