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USDA Announces New Partnership with States to Strengthen Integrity of Nation’s Most Vital Nutrition Assistance Program

Release No.
FNS-0003.13

Contact:
FNS Office of Communications and Governmental Affairs (703) 305-2281

First-Ever Data-Sharing Agreements with States are Latest Effort in “SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project”

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 – Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon today announced a new federal-state partnership targeting recipient fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). USDA will share its extensive experience in monitoring retailer fraud to help states develop a more robust set of tools to identify suspicious activity and improve tactics to catch recipients that attempt to commit SNAP fraud. By law, USDA is responsible for overseeing the more than 250,000 retailers that redeem SNAP benefits nationwide, while states are responsible for identifying and pursuing fraudulent activity by recipients.

“USDA is signaling a new front in our ongoing efforts to stop SNAP trafficking,” Concannon said.  “Despite the low rate, fraud at any level is not tolerated. We are committed to working with states to make improvements that keep us ahead of the curve and provide Americans with the excellence they deserve when it comes to wisely managing their investment in SNAP.”

Today’s announcement involves the signing of data-sharing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) between USDA and the states of Maryland and Virginia. USDA will use data collected under these unprecedented MOUs and other information-sharing agreements to develop an enhanced monitoring tool for states similar to USDA’s state-of-the-art Anti-fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system. USDA uses its ALERT system to closely monitor the 2.5 million electronic retailer transactions that happen daily. ALERT helps USDA identify suspicious stores for analysis and investigation, better target high risk areas, and quickly implement fraud detection scans as new schemes are identified.

“We have a lot of experience in identifying and pursuing retailer fraud through data mining, which we can use to help arm states with sharper tools to ensure integrity on the recipient side,” added Concannon. “These MOUs are just the latest in what we call our SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project—our ongoing work to ensure SNAP integrity.”

Over the past several years, USDA has taken steps to improve SNAP oversight through the SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project, including requiring more frequent reviews of higher risk retailers and expanding the definition of fraud to crack down on newer methods of SNAP benefit abuse. In the coming months, USDA will announce a series of additional steps to strengthen regulations that prohibit SNAP trafficking. Trafficking, an illegal activity, is the exchange of SNAP benefits for cash.  USDA has seen a steady decline in the rate of trafficking from four percent down to about one percent of benefits over the last 15 years. While fraud is rare in SNAP, no amount is acceptable, and it will not be tolerated. USDA continues to crack down on individuals who violate the program and misuse taxpayer dollars.

SNAP – the nation's first line of defense against hunger – helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month. The largest of USDA's 15 nutrition assistance programs, it has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget of more than 47 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.

The SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project is part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste, an initiative/effort to fight fraud, abuse and misuse in Federal programs. For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud, visit the Stop SNAP fraud website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/fraud.

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