Surfing for food stamps

A new Web site could help low-income families learn whether they qualify for federal food stamps and how much assistance they could get, even if some cannot get on the Internet at home.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said needy families who believe they qualify for food stamps can go to food banks and other centers or to government offices where local or state workers can help them access the "Food Stamps Step 1" site on the Internet.

"This isn't really targeted to people who have computers in their own home per se," she said, explaining that the primary purpose of the Web site is making it easier for people to apply for aid.

Program questioned

Matthew Bennett, a policy director at the Alliance for Public Technology, which lobbies for greater access, said he is glad the Web site is available. But, he added, "I think they're missing some of their target audience in that approach."

The government sometimes has been accused of slighting low-income people in efforts to reach out online to the public because most lack home computers and many lack computer skills. Seventy-five percent of Americans who earn less than $15,000 did not have access to the Internet in 2001, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the Commerce Department.

News source: CNN

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