Agriculture Secretary Calls on States to Take Action to Improve SNAP Administration for Families in Need
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2024 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a letter to 47 U.S. governors conveying concerns about how challenges in state administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are affecting American families. The letter underlines the urgency of the situation and encourages immediate state actions to improve.
The administration of SNAP by law falls under states, which each have a dedicated state agency leader. The federal government reimburses states for half the cost of administering SNAP, which totaled nearly $6 billion in Fiscal Year 2023.
"SNAP serves as our nation’s foundational safety net, a crucial resource for the well-being of low-income families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities,” wrote Secretary Vilsack in the letter. “Timely and accurate SNAP processing is critical to meeting the nutrition needs of low-income families and protecting the integrity of SNAP. Americans in need should have access to essential benefits without unnecessary delays. States must deliver benefits in the right amounts, to the right individuals, in the required periods of time.”
USDA is deeply concerned about the consequences that delayed and/or inaccurate SNAP benefits can have on families in need. USDA is urging states to take immediate action by:
- Considering options available to them that can streamline and simplify processes, such as cutting back on unnecessary paperwork and assigning the longest certification periods allowable for the household; and
- Investing in systems and staffing to support modern business models and delivery systems.
While the administration of SNAP is, by law, a state responsibility, the program is federally monitored, and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken – and continues to take – numerous actions to support states in ensuring all those in need of nutrition assistance receive timely and accurate benefits. For example, FNS is:
- Engaging directly with states through onsite visits, virtual trainings and office hours;
- Providing updated guidance and tools on effective practices and innovative strategies;
- Requiring states that fall short of certain benchmarks to implement corrective action plans;
- Awarding $5 million in grants per year to select state agencies to develop and implement projects that use technology to improve the quality and efficiency of SNAP application and eligibility determination systems; and
- Contracting with national payroll data providers to help states improve income verification for SNAP applicants and recipients, which is expected to reduce payment errors and improve the timely processing of applications and recertifications.
USDA will continue to work collaboratively with states to improve their SNAP operations and hold them accountable for fulfilling their legal obligations. Vilsack concluded, "We share your desire to build strong service delivery systems that meet the needs of low-income people, and we look forward to continuing our work together to strengthen the nutrition security of American families."
Secretary Vilsack’s letters to governors can be found here.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.
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