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USDA Allows States to Improve SNAP Technologies
USAgNet - 08/22/2019

The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service announced a new pair of administrative flexibilities that enable states to leverage modern technologies in their efforts to deliver Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits with improved customer service and integrity.

By utilizing modern technology, our state partners can continue to advance innovation in the administration of SNAP," said Brandon Lipps, USDA's deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. "These flexibilities allow states to employ new solutions to run their programs in ways that are more effective, efficient, and accurate."

This guidance offers new state options and clarifies existing ones, giving states access to cutting-edge technological solutions through flexibilities that:

- Allow states to use modern tools to verify applicants' identities. State agencies are required by law to verify a SNAP applicant's identity and other critical information before enrolling him/her to receive benefits. In many states, this must still be done in-person, by fax, or through the mail. This option will allow states to verify the identities of applicants using the same secure systems used by banks and other government programs and agencies.

- Clarify how states can utilize income verification information documents to verify income through third-parties. State agencies are required to verify household income during SNAP certification in order to provide the correct amount of SNAP benefits. Many employers now contract with third party payroll services that act as an agent of the business to provide all payroll related services including verifying income for SNAP and other means tested benefit programs. FNS is providing guidance to align SNAP verification policy with new technologies--making SNAP income verification easier, more reliable, and more efficient for the client and the state agency.

The identity authentication technology was first tested as a pilot project in Florida. "Using technology to streamline the benefit process for our customers while saving taxpayer dollars by reducing fraud through identity verification tools is a winning solution for our state," said Secretary Chad Poppell of the Florida Department of Children and Families. "We look forward to continue working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop innovative and bold solutions that enhance the operations of Florida's public assistance benefit system and the services we provide."

FNS worked with the state of Nebraska and at least one state from every region to solicit feedback on third party income verification before issuing this guidance. "Electronic data sources provide more efficient and effective eligibility determinations as we help people live better lives. Being able to verify income electronically is more customer-focused and supports program integrity. This tool has helped Nebraska meet or exceed SNAP timeliness and accuracy standards of 95% or better for the last 42 months," said Dannette R. Smith, CEO, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

While utilizing these new flexibilities, states will still be responsible for complying with federal laws and protecting applicant rights. States will also be required to maintain high customer service with all applicants, including offering traditional methods of identity authentication or data verification in the processing of their applications. FNS will continue to work collaboratively with states to ensure that SNAP operates with the utmost integrity, while offering states much needed flexibilities and program participants the world-class customer service they deserve.

"Great customer service grows from strong, problem-solving partnerships between USDA, the states, and private industry partners that deliver our programs in communities throughout the country," said Lipps. "Technology alone can't solve every problem, but technology done right can make a real difference by ensuring program integrity and streamlining the application process."

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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