Private Firms Try To Connect Eligible Poor With Welfare Benefits

Washington (AP) -- Over the last three years, a handful of companies have developed secure-internet software to make one-stop welfare benefits screening and applications available to states.

They're like web-based tax-preparation services such as turbo tax, and they're becoming trusted tools for charitable organizations and advocacy groups that serve the poor.

Volunteers set up their computers at food pantries, churches and health clinics and ask potential clients if they want to learn if they're eligible for benefits.

If the process shows a participant is eligible, the computer program fills out multiple government forms automatically and prints them for the person to take to a state welfare office.

Such a program helped Celeste Molina, who needed some food stamps when she visited a Columbus food bank this summer.

She left with food stamps and a connection to jobs and family services, helping her apply for child care and file her federal income taxes.

One program, www.earnbenefits.org, is available in Memphis.

Copyright 2006 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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