Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon recently announced new strategies to further improve program integrity in SNAP and hold those misusing benefits accountable. The measures include tougher financial sanctions for the small number of retailers that defraud the program, as well as new requirements and tools for states to ensure benefits go solely to eligible individuals.
The retailer sanctions proposal allows USDA to permanently disqualify a retailer who traffics, and also assess a monetary penalty in addition to the disqualification. Financial penalties would be proportional to the amount of SNAP business the store is conducting, which will help ensure that the financial punishment more closely fits the crime. Currently, when a retailer is found guilty of fraud or abuse, USDA can either disqualify the retailer from participating in SNAP, or issue a financial penalty, but not both.
The new rules require states to take specific actions that would catch fraud and abuse on the front end and ensure that ineligible people do not participate in the program. The new standards strengthen integrity by giving states an additional tool to identify cases that may require further investigation and review when an applicant or recipient is found in a Federal database.
In fiscal year 2012, USDA imposed sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on more than 574 stores found violating program rules, and permanently disqualified 1,016 stores for trafficking SNAP benefits (i.e. exchanging SNAP benefits for cash) or falsifying an application.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including school meals programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud, visit the Stop SNAP fraud website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/fraud.