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Newsroom SRS and H&R Block Launch Statewide Program to Expand, Simplify Access to Food Assistance Benefit for Underserved Families

Success of last year’s 3-city test prompts expansion of innovative program to entire state

Topeka – The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) and H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) announce the statewide expansion of an innovative public-private partnership to help more eligible Kansas families access the state’s Food Assistance Program (also known as Food Stamps).

Earlier this year SRS and H&R Block joined forces in a groundbreaking pilot program, enabling people to electronically apply for Food Assistance through more than 45 H&R Block tax offices in the Kansas City metro area counties, resulting in 418 families who used H&R Block’s services applying for benefits. The program was piloted in Johnson, Wyandotte, and Leavenworth counties beginning in January of 2007.

"I am encouraged to see SRS and H&R Block expanding their partnership," said Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. "The program is extremely helpful in ensuring that Kansans who are eligible for food stamps know they are eligible and receive the help they need in applying."

Currently, SRS estimates that while nearly 186,513 people statewide receive food assistance each month, there are more than 100,000 individuals who are likely eligible but not enrolled in the program.  This is largely due to challenges with awareness, accessing applications and understanding the basic guidelines for eligibility. 

Through the H&R Block Benefits Enrollment Network (BEN) program, during tax preparation by H&R Block, potentially eligible individuals are offered the assistance of specially-trained benefits specialists, at no additional charge, to assist with the benefits application process.  The application and supporting documentation are sent electronically to an SRS case worker who determines food assistance eligibility.  Follow-up and resolution of the application process takes place by phone or in person at an SRS office.  

“H&R Block has a unique commitment to help the communities it serves, and the company has the technology, infrastructure and scale to help make innovative programs like the Benefits Enrollment Network work – and work well,” said Andy Olson, Director of Outreach & Business Development at H&R Block.  “Governor Sebelius has been a champion of innovation, and this program proves that when the right leaders and the right companies join forces, new ideas can deliver real results and change lives for people in need.  This is about improving the financial outlook for Kansas families by offering convenient access to benefits for families getting their taxes done at H&R Block.  We are honored to partner with Kansas to make this goal a reality.”  

The Kansas Food Assistance Program is a nutrition assistance program which allows eligible individuals to purchase nutritious food from their local grocery stores.  Families may receive up to $4,000 per year in assistance for a family of four.  SRS reports show that only 65.6% of Kansans who are eligible for the program currently participate.  This leaves over 100,000 persons across the state who could receive food assistance if they would apply. 

“We have begun to change the equation and ensure that more eligible families get the benefits they need,” said Don Jordan, SRS Secretary. “Our work has only just begun, but our first steps have been positive.  We expect the expansion of this program to generate tremendous results for families across the state.”

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About H&R Block
H&R Block seeks to serve as its clients’ tax and financial partner.  Over the last several years the company has developed and introduced numerous innovations to help working families choose healthier financial alternatives, get more of the benefits to which they are entitled and help create the ability for individuals and their families to become more financially secure and independent.  H&R Block is the world’s largest tax services provider.  Having prepared more than 400 million tax returns since 1955 the company pioneered e-filing and consistently helps approximately 25 percent of those families who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit each year.  In 2005, that represented over $10 billion, an average of about $1,800 per family.