USDA Provides Grants to Help States Cut Down on SNAP Benefit Trafficking

Release No.
FNS 0002.14

Contact:
FNS Office of the Chief Communications Officer: (703) 305-2281

SNAP fraud rates already low; grants will help states improve program integrity even further

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2014 – Today Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon announced the availability of up to $7 million in grant funds to prevent recipient trafficking in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Through increased oversight and improvements in program management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to help states reduce SNAP trafficking, the exchange of benefits for cash or other goods or services.  The grants announced today, which are a key component of USDA’s efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in SNAP, will be awarded competitively to state agencies.

The SNAP Recipient Trafficking Prevention Grant Program is a new program designed to improve outcomes in the prevention, detection, and prosecution of recipient trafficking.  Recipients found guilty of trafficking are subject to severe penalties, such as criminal punishment and permanent disqualification from the program. USDA works through state agency partners to investigate recipient fraud, and hold bad actors accountable.

“USDA continues to take an aggressive stance on abuse to preserve integrity in the nation’s largest nutrition safety net,” said Concannon.  “SNAP fraud is rare, but no level of abuse is acceptable and new strategies are continuously implemented to improve the effectiveness of our anti-fraud efforts.”

Concannon also today announced second quarter, fiscal year 2014 results of USDA’s work in fighting fraudulent activity in SNAP retail stores.  In that quarter, USDA staff took final actions to:

  • Impose sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on 201 stores found violating program rules; and
  • Permanently disqualify 393 stores for trafficking SNAP benefits (i.e. exchanging SNAP benefits for cash) or falsifying an application.

While the vast majority of SNAP recipients and retailers abide by the rules, USDA is committed to protecting the taxpayer investment in SNAP, and making sure that the program is targeted toward those families who need it most. In order to reduce fraud among retailers, USDA has been working to strengthen the review process, improve retailer standards and depth of stock requirements, and partner with states to improve investigations. 

The recipient trafficking prevention grants are open to all state agencies administering SNAP, including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.  USDA anticipates awarding the grants by September 30, 2014.  USDA will consider only one application per state agency.  Grant applicants are required to establish a baseline of their anti-fraud activities, track the outcomes from the strategies approved for this grant solicitation, and report them back to USDA.  USDA intends to review the results to determine the most effective strategies and then share those best practices with state agencies, nationwide.

SNAP - the nation's first line of defense against hunger - helps put food on the table for millions of families experiencing hardship. The program has never been more critical to the fight against hunger.  Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, and 42 percent of recipients live in households in which at least one adult is working but still cannot afford to put food on the table.  SNAP benefits provided help to millions who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. For many, SNAP benefits provide temporary assistance, with the average new applicant remaining on the program 10 months.

These announcements are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste designed to fight fraud and abuse in federal programs. Please see the 2013 Retailer Policy and Management annual report for more information on SNAP retailer oversight. For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud, visit the Stop SNAP Fraud website at http://www.fns.usda.gov/program-integrity.