Poverty in America is creating jobs for people overseas, says ABC News. The saga began when a Florida resident’s hours working as a nanny got cut back when her boss’ hours also got cut. She called a toll-free line to inquire about her food stamps and noticed that the call center obviously wasn’t in the US.
“The woman who answered the phone — it’s not like she wasn’t nice or anything — but it was kind of evident that she wasn’t in the States,” Brown said.
The call center belonged to JP Morgan Chase, the firm hired by the State of Florida to run its food stamp program. It turns out that lots of banks outsource their government food stamp contracts to places like India, says ABC.
“Why is the state of Florida sending these jobs away?” Brown asked. “The thing that really iced it for me, I knew that JP Morgan had gotten bailout funds.”
So she called her local politicians and then she reached out to her local newspaper, the Palm Beach Post. The paper did a story two weeks ago about the $50 million Florida paid JP Morgan in the last three years to administer the food stamps distribution.
Those services include 24-hour customer-service call centers. Some of those calls were answered in Bangalore and Gurgaon, India. Others were taken at two U.S. call centers.
The next day the head of the state’s Department of Children and Families said something needed to change.
“I don’t want any calls going to India,” he said. “We need to take care of this.”
The state now has a commitment from JP Morgan to move all of its calls to the United States, according to Judi Spann, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families.
Florida’s unemployment rate is currently at 9.7%, and the situation isn’t unique. ABC says that other states, some of them with over 10% unemployment have their food stamp programs outsourced.
Others, like Indiana, required the firms bidding on their food stamp programs to open a call center in the state.
Take Indiana. JP Morgan gets 62 to 64 cents for each food stamp case handled monthly there. With 296,245 cases right now, that means the state is paying JP Morgan $183,672 a month on top of any other fees it collects.
Indiana eliminated 100 full-time employees when it hired JP Morgan to make the program cost-neutral, according to Marcus Barlow, spokesman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration.
But unlike Florida, Tennessee or West Virginia, Indiana keeps all its calls domestically. In fact, all of its calls go to a call center in Maryville, Ind., Barlow said, because the state required an in-state call center when soliciting bids.