USDA Partners with More States to Boost Program Integrity; Protect Taxpayer Investment
Data-Sharing Agreements Critical Part of SNAP Stewardship Solutions project
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2013 – Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon today announced Washington and Ohio have joined a new federal-state partnership targeting recipient fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of its SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project. Under the partnership, USDA shares its experience in monitoring retailer fraud with states to help them more aggressively target suspicious activity and improve tactics to catch recipients that attempt to commit SNAP fraud. Today's announcement involves the signing of data-sharing agreements between USDA and the states of Washington and Ohio, similar to the first-ever data-sharing agreements USDA signed with Maryland and Virginia earlier this month.
"USDA has a strong history of identifying and pursuing SNAP retailer fraud through our data mining efforts," said Concannon. "By working together with states and sharing state-of-the art tools to prevent fraud on the recipient side, we're better positioned to safeguard the taxpayer investment in this critical nutrition program."
USDA will use data collected under these and other information-sharing agreements to develop an enhanced monitoring tool for states similar to USDA's state-of-the-art Anti-fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system. USDA uses its ALERT system to closely monitor the seven million electronic retailer transactions that happen daily. ALERT helps USDA identify suspicious stores for analysis and investigation, better target high risk areas, and quickly implement fraud detection scans as new schemes are identified.
In addition to sharing recipient data, Washington and Ohio offer other information collection opportunities. In Washington, state officials currently use data mining to analyze electronic transaction data and identify potential cases of recipient fraud. By collecting data from Washington, USDA will be able to help Washington and states with similar systems already in place use data analytics to better prioritize fraud investigations and measure the success of anti-fraud measures. In Ohio, SNAP is administered at the county level. USDA will gather best practices on leveraging relationships with local human services agencies and disseminate that information to help other states foster strong relationships to translate how to effectively use data analytics to combat recipient fraud through state-county partnerships.
Over the past several years, USDA has taken steps to improve SNAP oversight through the SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project, including requiring more frequent reviews of higher risk retailers, expanding the definition of fraud to crack down on newer methods of SNAP benefit abuse, and data-sharing agreements to help catch recipients that attempt to commit SNAP fraud. In the coming months, USDA will announce additional steps to prohibit SNAP trafficking. Trafficking – an illegal activity – is the exchange of SNAP benefits for cash. USDA has seen a steady decline in the rate of trafficking from four percent down to about one percent of benefits over the last 15 years. While fraud is rare in SNAP, no amount is acceptable, and it will not be tolerated. USDA continues to crack down on individuals who violate the program and misuse taxpayer dollars.
SNAP, the nation's first line of defense against hunger, helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month. The largest of USDA's 15 nutrition assistance programs, it has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget of more than 47 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.
The SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project is part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste, an initiative/effort to fight fraud, abuse and misuse in Federal programs. For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud, visit the Stop SNAP fraud website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/fraud.
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