Food Stamps

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Do you live in Alabama and have a problem with your food stamp benefits? Maybe someone in India can help.

Food stamp recipients telephoning a state hotline are unknowingly being referred to a customer service center in India by an Arizona company that administers the federally funded program for the state.

Senator Richard Shelby both revealed and denounced the system, saying Alabamians who could be answering the calls may instead wind up on food stamps because of the loss of jobs in America.

Shelby asked Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to find out if other states are using similar overseas operations. The department had no immediate response.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Human Resources said about 35,000 calls per month from Alabama are being answered in India by employees of the Funds Corporation of Scottsdale, Arizona.

State officials said the company received a $13 million, three-year state contract to manage the food stamp program beginning June 1.

Officials said only two companies submitted bids for the work, and none of the 140 Alabama companies that received notices about the contract submitted a bid.