This notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on this proposed information collection. This is a new information collection for the contract Serving Supplementation Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Applicants and Participants with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The purpose of the Servicing SNAP LEP study is to provide FNS with a comprehensive understanding of the language landscapes in which SNAP and Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) agencies operate, as well as the LEP policy and operations landscapes.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides a monthly benefit to eligible households to spend on food so that households and individuals with low incomes have access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy, active lives. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers SNAP in partnership with 53 state agencies (the 50 states, the District of Columbia [DC], Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands [USVI]). In three U.S. Territories—American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Puerto Rico—nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and households is provided through the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP).
As Federally assisted programs, both SNAP and NAP are required to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and its implementing regulations for the USDA at 7 CFR 15. (U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division n.d.). Title VI prohibits entities that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against or otherwise excluding individuals on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In order to avoid discrimination against LEP persons on the ground of national origin, administrators of federal financial assistance programs must take reasonable steps to ensure that LEP persons receive the language assistance necessary to afford them meaningful access to SNAP or NAP as applicable, free of charge. LEP individuals are defined as those who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English (USDA 2014, p. 70775). Meaningful access requires that state agencies provide language assistance services that allow equal participation in and access to the benefits of a given program. To support meaningful access, language assistance must be provided at a time and place that avoids the effective denial of the service, benefit, or right at issue or the imposition of an undue burden on or delay in important rights, benefits, or services to the LEP person (USDA 2014, p. 70779-70780).
As the agency responsible for providing oversight and monitoring for both SNAP and NAP, it is critical that FNS understands whether and how SNAP and NAP agencies are complying with LEP requirements. The LEP study will provide FNS with actionable insights about how states and territories operate language access policies and requirements. The study will gather detailed data from all 53 state SNAP agencies via a web-based survey, the three territories that operate NAP via in-depth interviews, and will conduct case studies in four states. The study will provide FNS with a comprehensive summary of findings on policies and practices related to LEP access. It will increase FNS' understanding of SNAP LEP access policies and practices across the nation, including how states make decisions about these policies and practices, how they train staff on them, and their perceptions of federal regulations. The findings from the study will help inform policymakers efforts to provide more meaningful access to SNAP and NAP.