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Ventura County

County Is Rated Tops in Food Stamp Accuracy

Services: Error rate in administering the program was just 4.5% in 2001, compared with 17.4% statewide.


State and federal officials have lauded Ventura County as the California county with the highest rate of accuracy in awarding food stamps.

In a presentation before county supervisors this week, they noted that Ventura County's success comes as other counties are being penalized by the federal government for their dismal records.

"Ventura County is a clear example of the best in California and one of the best in the country," said Dennis Stewart, regional director of the food stamp program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "It's a very difficult thing for most of the large counties in California."

In 2001, Ventura County doled out food stamps worth $17 million to needy families, with an error rate of a little more than 4.5%. Statewide, the error rate was nearly 17.4%--twice the national average. The state's error rate brought it a $115-million sanction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program.

The numbers do not necessarily reflect fraud, according to federal data. In Los Angeles County, which was blamed for most of the mistakes, there were about 193,000 errors. Roughly two-thirds of the households on food stamps received more than their legal share and one-third received less. The county blamed a balky computer system for the mistakes.

In Ventura County, the key to averting error has been the diligence of employees, said Barbara Fitzgerald, director of the county's Human Services Agency.

"We have no magic bullet," she told the supervisors as she accepted a trophy for her staff from state food stamp chief Gary Swanson.

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