WASHINGTON, July 30, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released an analysis showing an increase in the benefit payment error rate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) between Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. SNAP’s national payment error rate – a measure of both overpayments and underpayments made by all states to program participants – was 6.8% in fiscal year 2018, up from 6.3% in last year’s reporting.
“USDA is committed to ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent as intended and Federal programs should be transparent about their performance,” said Brandon Lipps, USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
“Our reforms to the measurement system have allowed us to report reliable rates for a second year. But I am concerned about the increase in errors over last year’s performance, since any error rate in a $60 billion program impacts the bottom line significantly. We are redoubling our efforts to partner with states to reduce errors. As part of this, I am looking to national, regional and state leadership to commit with me to solve these problems.”
To ensure leadership at all levels are engaged in improving accuracy of SNAP payments, today U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sent letters to the Governors of the 15 states with the most significant error rate problems.
Department officials emphasize that the SNAP payment error rates announced today are not a measure of fraud, but a representation of how accurately states are determining participants eligible for the program and issuing the correct amount of benefits. Under federal law, each state agency is responsible for monitoring its administration of SNAP, including payment accuracy.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service then independently reviews a sampling of each state’s data to ensure accuracy and target corrective action and sanctions for poor performance, as provided under the law. This year, FNS will issue over $26 million in sanctions to high-error states to ensure they are working diligently to improve accuracy. States must either pay the full amount immediately to the U.S. Treasury, or promptly reinvest half of these funds in FNS-approved actions to reduce errors, and pay the remainder if accuracy does not improve.
“Many different factors contribute to payment errors, and I am committed to working with sanctioned states to invest these resources in solutions that will drive better performance in our program,” Lipps said.
FNS will be building on its robust SNAP payment accuracy strategy with other improvements in the coming months, including:
- Proposed rulemaking to propose additional changes to further strengthen the SNAP quality control process, including reforms enacted by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill
- Enhanced review of preliminary quality control data to target technical assistance proactively
- Early communication between USDA and senior state government leadership to address problems as they emerge
“Good stewardship is a responsibility we share with states, and Congress and the American people expect USDA to ensure these programs operate with great integrity,” Lipps said. “We will meet that responsibility with action.”
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.
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