SNAP error rate up by half a percent
The Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service said today that the benefit payment error rate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — 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.
“Our reforms to the measurement system have allowed us to report reliable rates for a second year,” said Brandon Lipps, USDA’s acting deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.
“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 Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sent letters to the governors of the 15 states with the most significant error rate problems,” FNS said in a news release.
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.
The 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, USDA said, FNS will issue more than $26 million in sanctions to high-error states to make sure they are working 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.
USDA said FNS will be building on its SNAP payment accuracy strategy with other improvements in the coming months, including rulemaking to propose additional changes to further strengthen the SNAP quality control process, reflecting reforms enacted by Congress in the 2018 farm bill.