USDA Awards Grants to Help States Cut Down on SNAP Benefit Trafficking
Release No.
FNS 0009.14
Contact
FNS Office of the Chief Communications Officer (703) 305-2281

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2014 – Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon today announced the release of just over $5 million in grant funds to identify, track, and prevent misuse of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by program recipients. These grants will particularly help state agencies reduce SNAP trafficking, primarily the exchange of benefits for cash or other goods or services.

“USDA is committed to ensuring that SNAP benefits are used as intended, helping families put food on the table,” said Concannon.  “SNAP fraud is rare, but no level of abuse is acceptable. USDA continues to enhance our efforts to combat retailer fraud, and partner with states to improve recipient-focused investigations.”

The SNAP Recipient Trafficking Prevention Grant Program was designed to improve outcomes in the prevention, detection, and prosecution of recipient trafficking.  Recipients found guilty of trafficking are subject to severe penalties, including permanent disqualification from the program and criminal prosecution. USDA intends to review the results of these projects to determine the most effective strategies and then share those best practices with state agencies, nationwide. The grantees are:

  • Florida - $345,576
  • Kentucky - $1,189,890
  • Missouri - $599,642
  • Ohio - $15,000
  • Oregon - $314,844
  • Tennessee - $1,484,618
  • Washington - $750,984

The grantees will implement strategies to improve the effectiveness of integrity monitoring efforts and increase the number of investigations of recipients suspected of trafficking SNAP benefits.  For example, Oregon is combining analytics and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to better target fraud related to excessive electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card replacement requests.  The state of Washington is using innovative strategies to monitor and investigate fraud occurring via social media and e-commerce websites.

In addition to the SNAP Recipient Trafficking Prevention Grant Program, USDA is awarding a separate grant to South Carolina to conduct a pilot project designed to increase prosecutions of recipients found guilty of trafficking SNAP benefits, helping to ensure that bad actors are held accountable.  South Carolina will receive $318,840.

The vast majority of SNAP recipients and retailers abide by the rules.  Since the early 1990’s, using cutting-edge technology, USDA and partners reduced trafficking from 4 percent to approximately 1.3 percent.  USDA has a zero tolerance policy on fraud, and reducing fraud waste and abuse is a top priority for this administration.  USDA investigates fraud among retailers, and works with states to peruse recipient fraud.  In efforts to identify and reduce fraud among retailers who accept SNAP benefits, USDA took the following actions through the third quarter fiscal year 2014:

  • Imposed sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on 518 stores found violating program rules; and
  • Disqualified permanently 1,084 stores for trafficking SNAP benefits (i.e. illegally exchanging SNAP benefits for cash) or falsifying an application.

For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud in nutrition assistance programs, visit the FNS program integrity website.

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.