USDA plans to crack down on those who misuse Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Agency Under Secretary Kevin Concannon says USDA will use tougher financial sanctions for retailers that defraud the program. Additionally, there are new requirements and tools to ensure benefits go only to eligible individuals.
In a conference call Thursday, Concannon said the USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud, but he adds that misuse is low.
“Over 99 percent of people who receive benefits from SNAP, or through SNAP, are in fact, eligible legally, and 96.2 percent of the benefit amounts are correct, meaning the individual household receives not too much, based on their income, or not too little,” said Concannon, during the conference call.
Concannon says trafficking fraud among food retailers – the illicit buying and selling of benefits – is also low, especially among large stores. He says most of the trafficking occurs at small stores.
“The majority of small stores, just as is true of the majority of SNAP recipients, abide by the rules, play by the rules, adhere to the rules,” said Concannon, “but our job is to find those who do not abide by the rules.”
The retailer sanctions proposal allows USDA to not only permanently disqualify a retailer who traffics, but also assess a monetary penalty in addition to the disqualification, according to a news release issued Thursday by the USDA.
The announcement includes new requirements for 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.
“These requirements will make us better at identifying potential fraud and abuse before it occurs, as well as help us hold bad actors even more accountable than in the past and discourage them from abusing the public’s trust,” said Concannon.