Grad jury report: Nevada County left CalFresh benefits on the table | TheUnion.com
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Grad jury report: Nevada County left CalFresh benefits on the table

Submitted to The Union

Nevada County reported that in 2016 it did not receive $10.6 million in federal funds due to its failure to enroll all potential residents eligible for CalFresh benefits. The county’s Program Reach Index (PRI) or percentage of those potentially eligible for CalFresh who are enrolled was 48.7%. Since it is estimated that every dollar of CalFresh benefits generates $1.79 in the local economy, the loss to the county was approximately $19 million.

CalFresh benefits are important for the health and wellbeing of the community. Better birth outcomes, better compliance with medical directions, better child development, better school performance, and better control of chronic disease all depend on better nutrition and food security, and therefore are improved with CalFresh benefits. CalFresh benefits, by allowing households more money to spend on items other than food, result in a significant decrease in the number of those in poverty.

In 2018 the county’s PRI improved to 58%, but was still the 10th lowest in the state. To increase its PRI the county must increase the number of eligible citizens enrolled. Outreach is critical, and in particular it is important to educate residents and to assist in enrollment. Lack of information about the program and eligibility rules and misconceptions (such as seniors’ belief that if they receive benefits, they will be taking them from others) are barriers to enrollment. Frustrations with the application process and concerns about supplying the necessary financial information can also be a barrier.

The county has been working on these issues but must do more. Outreach could be directed to at a larger and more varied number of locales and events. Community organizations, businesses, and municipalities could be recruited to widen outreach. The county’s CalFresh eligibility team could make improvements in its phone system and communication practices, in its case management and interview processes, in its efficiency in handling applications, and its error rate in handling applications. More intensive outreach using practices such as solicitation flyers or prepopulated CalFresh applications for Medi-Cal recipients could be used, as well as increased use of newer technologies such as call center systems, integrated voice response systems (IVRS), text messaging, access to application status by phone, electronic signature, and videoconferencing.

The Nevada County Grand Jury is an investigatory body with the authority to act as a watchdog on local government, investigates citizen complaints, and assist in criminal matters at the request of the district attorney.

The Superior Court of California, County of Nevada, is continuing to seek applications from Nevada County citizens interested in an opportunity to serve on the 2020-2021 grand jury.

In order to meet the minimum qualifications for service on the grand jury, applicants must be United States citizens who are 18 years of age or older and who have resided in Nevada County for a minimum of one year immediately prior to becoming a grand juror. Service on the grand jury requires a substantial investment of time, usually 40-50 hours per month.

Additional information and applications for grand jury service are available by contacting the grand jury at 530-265-1730, or by visiting the Nevada County Superior Court website at http://www.nccourt.net and going to the grand jury link.

Source: Nevada County Grand Jury


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