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Nation's Primary Nutrition Assistance Program Reaches Highest Accuracy Rate in History of the Program

Release No.
0256.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p align="center" class="BodyTextBlack"><i>Improved Administration Results in $356 Million Reduction in Incorrect Payments</i></p>

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with state partners has improved payment accuracy and program integrity in the nation's largest nutrition assistance program. Vilsack commended selected states for their excellence in administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2010 is (96.19 percent), the fourth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate. The accuracy rate for Fiscal Year 2010 is at an all time high and underscores the Administration's ongoing effort to make government more accountable to the American people.

"The Obama administration has made it clear that we will track down and eliminate misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government," said Vilsack. "USDA and our state agency partners have done just that in achieving historically high accuracy rates in SNAP and we will continue to make improvements that protect taxpayer dollars while putting healthy food on the table for struggling individuals and families."

Under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, each state agency is responsible for monitoring and improving its administration of SNAP. The SNAP Quality Control System determines the accuracy of the benefits authorized. The national payment error rate was 3.81 percent in FY 2010, a record low. Without this improvement, FY 2010 improper payments would have been $356 million higher.

Working in collaboration with USDA, state agencies continue to enhance SNAP program integrity even as demand has increased in response to national economic conditions. This year, USDA is investing in process improvement efforts that examine local office processes and identify and implement efficiencies. The department is also interested in funding projects that use technology to achieve procedural changes, such as document imaging, telephone interviews or web-based access to case status information. Today's announcement proves that states' efforts to ensure program integrity and improve their process for administering SNAP are working.

SNAP benefits are essential to the nutrition and well-being of one in seven people in our nation and also provide an economic stimulus that strengthens communities. Research shows that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9.00 in economic activity. SNAP benefits move quickly into local economies, with 97 percent of SNAP benefits redeemed within a month. It is estimated that at least 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs are created from $1 billion of SNAP benefits.

USDA provides monetary incentives to the seven states with the best payment accuracy rates and the three states with the most improved payment accuracy, while $6 million is awarded among the four states with the lowest negative error rates and the most improve negative error rates. For the second straight year, states overall have improved their negative error rates (a measure of denials, terminations, and suspensions). Two states, Texas and Illinois, are being recognized for both best payment accuracy rates and most improved accuracy rates.

The states below were recognized for their performance rates:

Best Payment Accuracy Rate (figures represent the error rate as a percentage)

Florida 0.78
South Dakota 1.31
Delaware 1.52
Illinois 1.70
Mississippi 1.92
Wisconsin 1.97
Georgia 1.99
Texas 2.13
Alaska 2.15

Most Improved Accuracy Rate (figures represent the improvement rate as a percentage)

Texas 4.77
Indiana 4.53
Illinois 4.47

Best Negative Error Rate

Nebraska 0.00
South Dakota 0.25
North Dakota 1.24
Oregon 2.12

Most Improved Negative Error Rate (figures represent the percentage point improvement)

District of Columbia 27.18
Michigan 20.55

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The largest program, SNAP, puts healthy food on the table for more than 44 million people each month, half of whom are children.