USDA Announces New Rule to Strengthen Integrity and Oversight in Leading Nutrition Assistance Program

Release No.
0263.11

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

<p><i>New Rule Will Assess Strict Penalties for Violations </i></p>

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2011 – The Department of Agriculture today announced the publication of a proposed rule to strengthen program integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by ending the practice called "water dumping." "Water dumping" involves buying beverages that require a container deposit and immediately dumping out the contents in order to return the container and receive the deposit credit in cash. The proposed rule would make this practice a client violation that would be categorized as a trafficking offense and could result in a recipient's disqualification.

"At a time when so many Americans are coping with economic hardship, we need to do everything possible to ensure that all SNAP benefits are used only as intended – to help struggling individuals and families put healthy food on the table," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "It is a top priority of this administration to maintain public confidence in SNAP and fight actions that can undermine the intent of the program. This rule gives USDA new tools to do just that."

The Food and Nutrition Act provides for the disqualification of any person who has been found by a state or federal court or administrative agency to have intentionally abused their SNAP benefits. The proposed rule, a result of a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill, was published in the Federal Register today as part of an ongoing, continuous, and broad effort to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure program integrity in SNAP.

Over the last 15 years, FNS has aggressively implemented a number of measures to reduce the prevalence of trafficking in SNAP from 4 percent down to its current level of 1 percent. FNS also continues to work closely with its state and federal partners to investigate and prosecute trafficking. In addition to assessing penalties on clients, this rule updates the definition of trafficking to include the stealing of benefits and other trafficking variations employed by violating retailers.

To comment on the proposed rule, go to www.regulations.gov and search for Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 0584-AD97, "SNAP: Program Provisions of Title IV of Public Law 110-246, Subtitle A, Part IV (Eligibility Disqualification) and Subtitle B, Part II (SNAP-FDPIR Dual Participation)".

SNAP puts healthy food on the table for over 44 million people each month, half of whom are children. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is the largest of the domestic food and nutrition assistance program administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. Serving about 1 in 7 Americans each month, SNAP is the cornerstone of America's safety-net against hunger.