"Were committed to doing this. We may not be able to hire the 28 staff. But still its an important thing to do," said Leo Ribas, director of the Division Community Services inside the Department of Social and Health Services.
The food stamp program, which serves about 570,000 people in a month, has consistently won federal bonuses for its accuracy in delivering benefits. It planned to add 23,300 more households to its list this year, by allowing families at up to twice the poverty level to receive food stamps.
But to do that, it wanted 28 new staff members funded by the Legislature. The governor ordered a hiring freeze, and those folks may never arrive.
Ribas thinks those slots may fall under an exemption to the hiring freeze for critical operations. "We are waiting for the exemption criteria to be developed. Once its available, well look at it," he said.
But the same bad economic times that prompted the hiring freeze are also affecting hungry families, and there are no plans to back off the expansion, Ribas added.